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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Highland Council’s In-House Bus Service a Roaring Success

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The Highland Council’s In-House bus service pilot project was launched in January 2023. 

The success of its first year of operation in delivering savings and creating a valued and reliable service was highlighted at the Economy and Infrastructure Committee. 

The service was set up to deliver passenger and school transport services at a lower cost than commercial contractors. 

In its first year of operation, the In-house service carried 449 pupils daily who are entitled to home to school transport, and 52,046 public passengers. 

In addition to the scheduled routes, the buses have provided hires to schools (e.g., for swimming trips) and community organisations. 

Twenty-four schools are currently using this facility in the Inverness/Black Isle/Dingwall area. 

Chair of the Committee, Councillor Ken Gowans said:

“Since the pilot was launched it has moved forward at a pace, with additional routes added.  

“In addition to now operating 12 key public services and delivering financial savings, the team are importantly providing a cost-effective service to schools and community groups which opens up new ways to access more leisure opportunities.  

“I would like to thank our bus drivers and everyone else involved in the pilot for all their hard work and commitment to make it a success.  

“The project has always been about making financial savings, but also providing improved and more inclusive services for communities.

“Going forward the team will continue to explore new opportunities and providing a great service.” 

An example on a recent expansion to the pilot includes is an additional route, providing school transport in Strathdearn for both primary and secondary pupils, and a public service between Tomatin and Inverness. 

This was launched in January 2024 and compared to the previous contract, this is saving £173,313 per annum. 

Al 53-seater coach has also been purchased to enable greater capacity for school hires. 

From 20 May this vehicle will also be used on two home-to-school journeys in the Nairn area, replacing a Stagecoach contract with a cost reduction of £333,715.  

Members were advised that as the in-house bus service expands, there is an opportunity to reinvest some of the savings made in strengthening the public and community transport networks and supporting the emerging Bus Service Improvement Partnership. 

It is intended that a report on these matters will be brought to a future Committee. 

The committee have also agreed that a report be brought to a future committee on the implications of moving the operation to an Arm’s Length External Organisation. 

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