Residents of a Black Isle village say they fear losing their morning commuter bus into Inverness because their village is “too rich”.
Culbokie residents were overjoyed in January when their commuter bus was restored by Stagecoach after it took over all D&E contracts.
Villagers unable to drive or without a car and trying to get into town for 9am had to leave the village, walk along an unpaved section of the A9 and wait for the bus with no shelter, in all weathers and often in the dark.
Stagecoach made it clear that it was a trial period of a year, and residents fear the company might be preparing to drop the service again.
Campaigner Alison Lowe said: “When Stagecoach announced they were to restore the service we were over the moon.
“In February we asked them to help promote the service in order to increase usage and they agreed to formulate and print 2,000 leaflets which we would distribute through the area.
“After a lot of emailing, the leaflets did not appear, and we were told at the end of July that they wouldn’t be doing it.
“They said in terms of car ownership, affluence, employment and people working from home Culbokie is above the national average so there was limited potential for return on investment on promotion.
“This is a very poor approach for a company that has already invested a bus and driver twice daily. In comparison 2,000 leaflets are small beer.”
A spokeswoman for Stagecoach said: “We had looked into a leafleting campaign to increase passenger numbers but our research into demographics of the village indicated that this was unlikely to have the desired impact.
“We plan to include Culbokie when we promote the Inverness area network as a whole.”
Mrs Lowe said the community had now taken matters into its own hands and printed and distributed its own leaflet, as well as promoting the service in community markets.
She said: “We believe just three more regular users would secure the long-term existence of this lifeline service and are appealing to people to consider swapping to the bus and saving hundreds a year in terms of running a car and parking fees.”
Stagecoach moved to dispel the community’s fears for “the near future”.
A spokeswoman said: “We have no plans to make changes to the service in the near future.
“The service was reintroduced as a result of operating new school bus contracts in the area.
“This allowed us to have the resources in place to operate the commuter journeys, making them viable to operate.
“We will continue to review the performance of our network and liaise with Culbokie community representatives, elected members and local authority officers regarding these journeys.”