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‘We’ll be stuck’: Findhorn and Kinloss to be cut off as Stagecoach axes service 32

When a regular hospital patient said stopping the service could be 'life-threatening' Stagecoach replied saying 'sorry for inconvenience'.

Findhorn residents
Those who use the bus service have called for the decision to be reversed.

Several residents of two scenic villages in Moray are about to lose access to essential services.

People in Findhorn and Kinloss told the Press and Journal that the bus service 32, which connects their villages with Elgin and Forres, will stop operating in two months.

It follows Stagecoach’s recent decision to axe bus services in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray as it claims its current network is “no longer sustainable”.

However, the bus operator’s decision will mean hundreds of people across the regions will lose “vital” access to essential services.

Findhorn resident Harry Cooksley is one of the many people who will be affected by the service cancellation.

The 76-year-old explained many people in the village, including himself, rely on the bus to go to work, hospital, pharmacies or train stations.

He has started a petition to ask for the crucial services to remain operating.

The imminent cease of bus services in the area will also “tremendously affect” the Findhorn Ecovillage, a community of 200 people that will become isolated once the bus 32 stops running.

Findhorn residents to lose access to essential services

Harry Cooksley, from Somerset, and his wife Susan, from Elgin, moved to Findhorn more than 20 years ago.

The 76-year-old still works part-time as a driver at Tesco and takes the bus every day to go to work.

He said: “This is a vital thing for Findhorn; people rely on the buses not just for work but to get to the doctor, the dentist and other local facilities.”

Findhorn resident Harry Cooksley uses bus services daily. Image: Supplied by Harry Cooksley

He also explained that Findhorn is a tourist spot, with many visitors coming by bus.

“This will also affect local businesses and have a big impact on the community,” Mr Cooksley continued.

The proud resident has put up a petition at Findhorn and Kinloss post offices to try getting the decision reversed.

A petition to reverse the decision has been put up in Findhorn and Kinloss post offices. Image: Supplied by Harry Cooksley

“The Scottish Government and local authorities say we should use public transport because it’s better for the environment, so they need to do something to make sure we still have local buses,” he concluded.

Stopping bus services could be ‘life-threatening’

The upcoming cancellation of the bus service to and from Findhorn will not only affect the town but the nearby ecovillage.

The Findhorn Foundation is a sustainable community of 200 people, many of whom rely on buses to access essential services.

Graham, a 73-year-old volunteer at the ecovillage, explained the decision will affect them “tremendously.”

Service 32 connects Findhorn with Elgin and Forres. Image: Supplied by Harry Cooksley

He said: “I’m a pensioner with health problems and one of those people who don’t have a car.

“I need to go to Elgin Hospital occasionally as I’m epileptic and I’ve had a stroke.”

He continued: “I wrote to Stagecoach and told them it could be life-threatening to have no bus service to Elgin and they replied, ‘sorry for the inconvenience’.

“There are loads of us in the ecovillage who don’t have a car and without a bus service we’d be stuck.”

Moray councillors say communities will be ‘isolated’

Scottish Greens councillor Draeyk Van der Horn has labelled Stagecoach’s decision as a “huge blow.”

He believes it will “negatively impact” local businesses and “disputes the claims that the service is underused.”

The Forres councillor said: “It’s important to understand that this bus service is a lifeline for locals, enabling them to access doctors, dentists, and other essential services.

“Personally, I rarely pass a bus stop without seeing people waiting to catch a scheduled bus.”

Moray councillor Draeyk Van Der Horn said Stagecoach’s decision is a “huge blow” . Image: Jason Hedges/ DCT

He continued: “This decision also ignores substantial evidence that we need a coherent and connected transport network with less reliance on private cars, which, in turn, could lead to increased congestion on the roads.”

Cllr Van der Horn has emailed Stagecoach’s CEO and head of service to ask why the decision has been taken and to urge “immediate reversal.”

He concluded: “I am forced to reiterate the question, is it time to take buses back into public ownership as part of a wide-ranging transformation of public transport? one that delivers on what people need and not simply on what is most profitable.”

Meanwhile, Tory councillor Kathleen Robertson explained she has been contacted by employees at local businesses in Findhorn, Forres and Kinloss who rely on the service to get to work and visit family.

When asked what the decision would mean for these communities, Cllr Robertson said: “Social isolation is a huge risk for all ages but especially our elderly population.

Kathleen Robertson in coat in Grant Park in Forres.
Councillor Kathleen Robertson said the cancellation of bus services could lead to “social isolation”.

“Also, the ability to reach medical, dental and other health related appointments will be impacted and trips to do routine shopping.”

She continued: “It also will be an issue for our young folk who may rely on the service for social activity with the free under-22 pass.

“Not everyone has access to a car.”

SNP councillor Scott Lawrence also confirmed he has been contacted by “concerned residents” and claims the importance of this service is “undoubted.”

He said: “The importance of this service is undoubted, allowing access to a range of vital services in Forres, Elgin and beyond.

SNP councillor Scott Lawrence claims the importance of this service is “undoubted.”

“The Scottish government introduced free bus travel to allow people to access education, employment and social opportunities, but without bus services the benefits of this may be lost and people living in rural areas could be disadvantaged.”

The Ward 8 councillor continued: “If the service does cease it will be important for Moray Council to look at the m.connect bus service and the bus revolution element of the Moray Growth deal to see what can be done to ensure the communities of Findhorn and Kinloss retain these vital connections.”

Stagecoach say removing a service is ‘never an easy decision’

A spokesperson for Stagecoach North Scotland said: “Bus use remains low west of Burghead, and with increased operating costs and our continued investment in newer, greener vehicles, changes to our services are required.

“Removing a service is never an easy decision, and unfortunately Service 32 will no longer serve Findhorn from 19th August 2024.”