There’s no way in or out North Dunfermline’s Baldridgeburn community by public transport after the 84 bus service stops running – according to a local councillor for the area, it’s an isolated community.
Now, following a survey of the Baldridgeburn community, Dunfermline MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville is ready to raise the issue with the Scottish Government’s transport secretary at a meeting she has secured in November.
Stagecoach pulled the plug on the service around this time last year, but Councillor Gordon Pryde (Labour for Dunfermline North) said Fife Council stepped in and subsidised the route to keep it in operation hourly from 8am to 6pm Monday to Saturday.
Although a poor service is better than no service, Ms Somerville found that the vast majority of area residents don’t feel the current schedule meets their needs or expectations.
She surveyed residents after growing concern that people were unable to get to work on time or visit relatives due to reliability issues and timetable gaps.
“A reliable and efficient local bus service network can ensure that people have access to essential services, education, employment, and social opportunities,” she said.
“Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case in Baldridgeburn or in several other communities in the Dunfermline and West Fife area. My recent survey revealed a clear desire for better local bus services, and I am fully committed to advocating for the improvements residents deserve.”
Cllr Pryde was not at all surprised by the results of the survey.
“I have contact from a number of local residents who have a number of concerns about the 84 service – or lack of service – in the Baldridgeburn area,” he said.
For Cllr Pryde, the issue comes back to a disjointed commercial bus network that places profitability above service.
“The problem with buses and bus services is that they are run by commercial operators – Fife Council has no direct control over these commercial routes,” he explained.
“There is no public service obligation from commercial operators to provide services in non-profitable areas. There’s a big issue there. It’s not a very good model and something needs to change.”
He continued: “It would be much better if the control of the bus services were back in the hands of communities but that’s not what we have.”
Ms Somerville has secured a meeting with Scottish Transport Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, to discuss issues surrounding local bus services.
She is also looking to collaborate with Fife Council and Stagecoach to investigate what solutions can be found.
“I’m grateful to Fiona Hyslop for agreeing to sit down with me and discuss some of the ideas my team and I have been working on,” she said. “Establishing a direct public transport link to Stirling is just one example of the innovative solutions we are exploring to enhance our city’s connectivity.”
Cllr Pryde hopes that meeting raises the profile of local bus service issues at a national level and results in some sort of change.
“In my view, there isn’t enough national priority for local bus services. Bus services have a problem in that the numbers of people using the buses are down significantly compared to a number of years back,” he said.
“But we are living in a time of climate crisis and we do need to be supporting and providing better transport services for the benefit of local people.
He continued: “It would be good if the Scottish Government were to put resources back into the local bus services and perhaps legislate a better system of bus franchising to put much more control into the hands of communities to organise their own services and not just leave it for the commercial operators.”
Cllr Pryde highlighted that although there are issues with the Baldridgeburn 84 bus service, the council is doing the best it can to support the community.
He said the Labour administration’s budget dedicated more than three quarters of a million to support and subsidise local bus services like the 84 across the Kingdom.
And although Ms Somervillle’s survey highlighted the public transport issues in Baldridgeburn, Cllr Prdye said local bus service connectivity is an issue that is replicated throughout the rest of Dunfermline, Fife and Scotland.
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