This week Ariane Burgess MSP was represented by Maggie Chapman MSP, after a global server failure with Amazon S3 prevented remote participation, in a debate in the Scottish Parliament championing rural bus services.
The Members Business Motion saw MSPs from across the political spectrum call for greater protections for rural bus services and urgent action to prevent damaging service cuts and reductions, like the number 31 route in Forres.
Ariane highlighted the problems that Covid-19 and Brexit have had on services across the Highlands and Islands as well as the acute isolation bus service issues can cause in remote areas.
Responding on behalf of the Scottish Government, Graeme Dey Minister for Transport accepted that rural bus services appear to be more vulnerable to service cuts and revealed that the relevant Local Transport Authorities are currently exploring what alternatives can be found.
Commenting after the debate, Ariane Burgess MSP said:
“Just last Friday in Inverness, Stagecoach withdrew a host of services for the second time in two months due to staff needing to self-isolate.
“They had already lost many drivers to the HGV sector, which is offering better pay in order to fill its own Brexit-induced driver shortage.
“Brexit and Covid are not the only forces behind service cuts privatisation and decades of deregulation has resulted in services that are expensive, unreliable, and dysfunctional.
“The problem is most acute here, where cancellations are more likely to lead to isolation.
“The current system is not working for passengers, for taxpayers or for the climate.
“Commercial bus networks are subsidised to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds per year, yet private operators pay out generous shareholder dividends instead of reinvesting in services and driver pay.
“Instead, we must support Local Authorities to establish locally-owned bus companies.”