A blind Inverness man wants Stagecoach to re-think changes to its regular bus service – which he says have taken away his independence.
Drew Herbison, who lives in the Hilton area of the city, said the changes have left him “climbing the walls” on Sundays, while some of his weekday journeys are now taking twice as long.
There has been some frustration growing since Stagecoach shook up its bus timetables on June 28.
‘The past two Sundays I have been going round the twist’
Mr Herbison, 62, is registered blind and needs his guide dog to get around the city.
He said: “There used to be a bus every hour on a Sunday going in the way and coming back, but on June 28 that changed and I don’t get any buses at all on a Sunday.
“It used to only take 10 to 15 minutes to come into the city centre and the same coming back.
“The new bus route picks me up, goes up to Merkinch, down by Inshes, round by the hospital, back up and then to the town.
“It doesn’t go past Kingsmills Medical Centre anymore or go past Crown Vets where I take my guide dog.”
The new route can now take between 30 and 35 minutes to get from Hilton into the city centre, between two and three times as long.
Mr Herbison added: “I feel the route is far too big and taking far too long.
“It is having a big impact. If I don’t get out every day, I feel as if the walls are closing in on me.
“The past two Sundays I have been going round the twist.”
Guide dog would have to be retrained to use other stops
Mr Herbison has said it is not feasible for him to use an alternative bus stop as his guide dog would have to be retrained to identify potential hazards on the route.
He cannot head to other popular areas as the city centre is the only area his dog has been trained to navigate.
Mr Herbison added: “It has really got to me.
“For disabled people these changes have a huge impact and this situation is removing my independence.
“Stagecoach shouldn’t have done what they have done.
“All they needed to do when they changed the timetable is put an extra bus on each route, they didn’t have to change anything.
“Even some of the drivers have told me they are not happy.”
Offer of assistance from local MP
Mr Herbison has penned a letter to his local MP Drew Hendry to ask for help.
Mr Hendry said: “While it is understandable that like any business Stagecoach has had to review the services it is able to offer, it is important that such changes don’t have a detrimental impact on the ability of people living in communities in and around the city to connect with the city centre and amenities.
“I am sure colleagues in the Highland Council will be working closely with Stagecoach to monitor the impact of these timetable changes and I will, of course, do what I can to help.”
Stagecoach welcome feedback
A Stagecoach spokeswoman said: “Customer feedback is very important to us and we will take these comments on board for any future network changes.
“The timetable revision from June 28 was designed to improve bus connections across the city using the new bus priority measures in the city centre.
“While we have reduced the service on a Sunday from this particular stop, our services do remain frequent Monday to Saturday in line with the demand for bus services in the Hilton area.”