Thousands sign local bus cuts petition

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Local Scottish Green campaigners and activists have enlisted the support of thousands of local residents against the termination of evening and Sunday bus services.

Swestrans, which runs public transport across the southwest of Scotland for Dumfries and Galloway Council, is looking to cut services after its budget was reduced by the local authority by £315,000 with effect from 1 April 2016.

It says the level of savings required in financial year 2017/18 rises to £345,000.

SWestrans currently receives revenue funding of some £3.5m from Dumfries and Galloway Council to provide a socially necessary local bus network.

At its meeting on 11 March, the Board deferred a decision pending a special board meeting being called to consider the matter fully and requested additional information on usage figures for all routes, information on commercial services and the results of a short public consultation.

Planned service cuts include removing the Monday to Saturday evening services after 6pm between Stranraer and Newton Stewart, removing the Stranraer to Cairnryan service in August with the loss of the dedicated rail/ferry link and removing the Auchencairn-Castle Douglas-Laurieston service.

However local campaigners organised a huge campaign to save the vital transport links across Dumfries & Galloway.

The campaigners from Scottish Greens’ Dumfries & Galloway branch have heard from many worried workers, hospital visitors, and students and argue that the knock on effect to local economies is far greater than the sum hoped to be saved in the cuts generated.

Speaking at Stranraer’s Festival of Politics at the weekend Scottish Green Infrastructure and Investment Spokesperson and MSP Candidate Sarah Beattie-Smith said: “Swestrans need to find alternate sources of funding to safeguard these vital bus services for so many people across Dumfries & Galloway.

“It is clear the public want to keep buses running in the evenings and maintain services across seven days. Public consultation must be a default position for all transport considerations, and the Scottish Greens are committed to ensuring the local voice is heard in this and every instance”

SNP candidate for Galloway & West Dumfries Aileen McLeod said there is still time for an urgent re-think of proposals which would see subsidised bus services axed after 6pm an on Sundays.

Aileen said: “I’ve made a submission to Swestrans’ consultation outlining my concerns over the negative impact of these proposals if they go ahead – particularly for the most rural parts of the region and for those most vulnerable groups who rely even more so on public transport.

“I still hope it isn’t too late for an urgent re-think of these damaging proposals. I’ve asked the members of the Swestrans Board to look at their options again – for example it might be possible to reduce the frequency of some services rather than taking services away altogether.

“And if that isn’t possible, I’ve called on the Board to exercise the powers they have under the Transport (Scotland) Act 2005 to requisition the money they need from Dumfries & Galloway Council in order to keep these services running. That’s not a suggestion I’d make lightly, not least when I’m only too well aware how severe the pressures on Council budgets are. But these are also unprecedented circumstances with proposals that simply cannot go ahead.”