A Black Isle community is to celebrate the introduction of a new flexible door-to-door bus service, which makes it easier for local residents to get about their community and connect to commercial scheduled bus services.
A formal launch of the service, which operates in the Ferintosh Community Council area, is to take place at Findon Hall, Culbokie, on Monday 28 February, 1.30pm to 2.30pm, when local MSP Kate Forbes and Highland Councillor Allan Henderson, Chair of HITRANS, the regional transport partnership for the Highlands and Islands, will join local bus users and key stakeholders at the celebration.
The demand-responsive service is now in operation and follows a successful pilot in the community.
It allows permanent and temporary residents in the Ferintosh Community Council area to book journeys within the Black Isle – to and from their homes.
The bus is a 6-seater, wheelchair accessible, all electric multi-purpose vehicle which is available between 9.30 am – 4 pm, Monday to Friday.
With effect during March 2022, the Ferintosh Community Bus will be available during the days and evenings, 7 days a week.
To book, users should telephone between 10am and 2pm, Monday to Friday at least 1 day in advance of a journey, although every effort will be made to accommodate same day requests.
For the Monday to Friday daytime service, phone numbers are 07519 722456 or 07519 772376. For other journeys (from March 2022) the contact number is 07387 364541.
The pay structure is ‘pay what you can’ for any Black Isle destinations, with a recommended £2 return fare (cash only).
Specifically, however, when connecting with Stagecoach buses at Tore Service Station to and from Inverness, then the complete journey’s fare will be paid on the Stagecoach bus and is the identical cost as the current subsidised 22 service (passengers should request that Ferintosh CB is used as the starting/destination point; all concessionary fares, including for the under 22’s, are available on this journey).
Stagecoach has established a transfer point for FCB passengers at Tore Service Station (TSS).
All the weekday daytime A9 buses (25, X25), north and south bound, divert into Tore Service Station.
FCC area residents can also link conveniently at Munlochy with Stagecoach’s 26 service (useful for a journey to North Kessock or eastwards towards Avoch, Fortrose, Rosemarkie) or at the Tore Roundabout bus stops (by walking from TSS) with other Stagecoach bus services heading west (25A, X28, 61, 27) to, for example, Muir of Ord, Dingwall, Strathpeffer, Contin, Garve etc.
Residents can also be linked with the 21 service to Dingwall at suitable stops within the FCC area.
Bruce Morrison, who is leading the project on behalf of Ferintosh Community Council, said:
“A Community Bus service combines the advantage of being collected from your home with the efficiency of a public transport vehicle by sharing with other residents.
“A key community element of the service is the valuable contribution made by residents volunteering as drivers in the evenings and weekends.”
The pilot scheme was a partnership of HITRANS, the regional transport partnership, Stagecoach, The Highland Council, CSI Ross-Shire, Ferintosh Community Council (supported by Culbokie Community Trust) and Bannerman Transport.
It is supported through an EU InterReg project called MOVE which seeks to improve public transport provision through collaborative solutions.
Councillor Henderson said:
“The Ferintosh Community Bus (FCB) will be owned and maintained by Highland Council from March 2022.
“The FCB a fine example of a demand responsive form of public bus transport that can be mirrored across the Highlands and Islands, providing a more accessible, more frequent and more sustainable service for local residents.”
David Beaton, Managing Director at Stagecoach Highlands said:
“The Ferintosh Community Bus is a great example of how we can partner with rural communities in the Highlands to make travelling by bus more accessible.
“We will look forward to welcoming more people on board our services who have made the connection with the Ferintosh Community Bus.”