Black Isle residents say they are facing another battle for their bus service in the face of a fresh timetable review by Stagecoach for their 2020 service.
The company met members of the public at the Spectrum Centre in Inverness yesterday afternoon to talk through the proposals for Inverness and the wider area, including the Black Isle service no 26.
They said they will review all the feedback before finalising changes.
Avoch resident Sasha Ross said passengers were already struggling with an unreliable service, and she might now lose her job.
She said: “I work in the Inverness retail park on a fixed contract starting at 10am.
“There is currently a bus just before 9am which allows me to get to work on time, but that is going to disappear in the new timetable.
“Stagecoach have claimed they are making changes to the Cromarty to Inverness service in order to make life easier, however their new bus times include a service from Avoch at 7.44am and then the next bus is rescheduled for 9.39am.
“That is nearly two hours in between buses and won’t work with my contract.
“I’ve counted up to 30 people on the 9am bus, what with workers and elderly people heading into town.
“A two hour wait between times is simply unacceptable in this day and age and is totally isolating the residents that rely on the buses from Cromarty to Inverness, isolating the elderly that use the buses.”
Ms Ross added that the existing service is unreliable and dogged with mechanical failures.
She said: “I buy a weekly ticket, but I’ve noticed when the bus is really late, 20 or 30 minutes, the drivers just let everyone on the bus without paying which could give Stagecoach the impression that it’s not being used.
“I understand they want to add more buses to Inverness routes – routes where people have choice and can walk or cycle to work, it’s unnecessary.”
Black Isle councillor Craig Fraser said anything that impacted on residents’ ability to get to work was concerning.
He said: “Any change to commuter buses is seriously worrying for passengers.
“The unreliability of the service also worries me greatly, as I have heard of employees whose wages have been docked for being late through no fault of their own.
“We have already held two meetings with Stagecoach as a community, and will now hold another meeting with them in January to take forward our concerns.”
Stagecoach Highland says it is in the middle of a public consultation about the changes.
A spokeswoman for the company said: “We are grateful for all those who have taken time to give us their feedback to our proposals so far.
“The consultation remains open until December 19, then we will review all the feedback received before finalising our plans.”