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Fury over possible cuts to island bus services

Western Isles Council
Western Isles Council

Islanders have expressed outrage as Lewis and Harris public bus services face severe cuts under council plans.

Residents warn drastic proposals to provide only a skeleton service will greatly harm the local economy, affect employment opportunities, threaten fragile rural areas and lead to depopulation.

In addition, the threat arises despite specialist transport consultants hired by council warning of the consequences.

Western Isles Council seeks to save £1.67 million out of its overall £6.6 million transport services budget.

School and public bus services make up the vast bulk of running costs.

Slashed timetables could be restricted just to commuter buses between rural villages and Stornoway in the morning and taking people back home after work after 5pm.

Island bus services are run by a raft of private companies as well as the council while all are heavily subsidised by the local authority

Proposals could result in no transport for town workers whose shift starts at 8am. Middle of the day services for shopping, health care, social and leisure may be withdrawn.

Abolishing evening services to and from Stornoway are on the cards.

Bus connections with the inter-island ferry to Uist could be withdrawn.

Pupils who are not entitled to free school transport may also be affected.

Dramatic cuts are expected to be introduce within weeks.

Western Isles Council is due to make a final decision on Wednesday.

Furious islanders vented their anger on social media.

Gordon Mackay said: “This is a council anti-employment and anti-business tactic.

“Early morning services are a lifeline for non-drivers for employment outside of Stornoway.

“Late night services also with younger people working in hotels and people having to work over time in factories in the town.”

A council report points out statutory requirements restricts cuts to school transport so a “higher percentage” of savings will need come from public bus services.

Council leader Roddie Mackay said councillors would debate the issue next week.

He said: “We (councillors) have not seen the tenders yet so we don’t know what exactly what we are choosing.

Mr Mackay said the council had drafted a number of proposals and also invited bus operators to submit their own ideas.

He said: “We had a meeting with the bus companies and explained about the big challenges and money issues facing the council.”

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