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The GP Express: Health campaigners want dedicated Burghead to Lossiemouth bus route

The local authority is gathering views about expanding its programme of m.connect timetabled and on-demand services.

M.connect electric bus.
Moray Council is appealing for ideas on how to expand its bus services. Image: Moray Council

Health campaigners in Burghead and Hopeman have called for a new dedicated bus route to Lossiemouth as part of a Moray Council expansion.

The local authority is examining ways to reach more people with its m.connect on-demand and timetabled services.

The £4.3million “bus revolution” project is due to be expanded from its current six electric vehicles. Up to another 12 could be hitting the road in the coming years.

A study is currently taking place to examine how the services could be enhanced in the Elgin, Lossiemouth and Forres areas.

And health campaigners in Hopeman and Burghead want a new timetabled route between their communities and Lossiemouth to improve access to medical services.

What is the issue in Hopeman and Burghead?

The GP surgeries in Hopeman and Burghead closed during the Covid pandemic. Rsidents now have to travel to Lossiemouth for appointments.

However, the lack of a direct public transport link between the two means travelling into Elgin to catch connections.

It means it can take up to five hours for a return trip to travel the nine miles along the coast. All this for sometimes a 10-minute appointment.

The Save our Surgeries campaign wants a new timetabled route to help ease concerns about access to medical appointments.

Protestors marching through Harbour Street in Hopeman.
Protest marches were held in Hopeman and Burghead about the GP surgery closures. Image: David Mackay/DC Thomson

Committee member Liz McKnockiter said: “We had an instance just this week where a pensioner in Burghead phoned m.connect to take him to an appointment in Lossiemouth and was told he had to call two weeks in advance. That just doesn’t work for medical appointments.

“In the end he man had to take taxis there and back. It ended up costing him £60.

“It feels like our coastal communities are being ignored. The Stagecoach buses we do have that go into Elgin are cancelled a lot too.

“There needs to be a regular, reliable bus route from Burghead and Hopeman to Lossiemouth. The current situation is ridiculous.”

New bus routes could be considered for Lossiemouth, Elgin and Forres

Moray Council launched its expanded Scottish Government-backed m.connect “bus revolution” project, previously known as the Dial M dial-a-bus, to support communities not served by private operators.

It already runs timetabled routes from Elgin to Kingston, Keith to Tomintoul via Dufftown. It also covers Aberlour to Elgin via Knockando and Archiestown.

Following a previous consultation in Buckie and Keith, a new timetabled service joined the communities with Cullen. This service was to connect with trains to Aberdeen and Inverness.

Meanwhile, the on-demand service was also extended to 8.30pm in the area from 2.30pm following community feedback.

Moray Council m.connect bus.
Moray Council has a fleet of buses of different sizes. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Officials are now speaking to people in Elgin, Forres and Lossiemouth about what those communities would like.

The work will include examining how urban communities like Elgin and Forres are expanding. This will determine whether there is a demand for new town services.

Services had 7,685 passengers between May and December last year with a target of increasing that to 30,000 per year by 2030.

Moray Council has stressed all views will be considered as part of their consultation. More sessions are planned in March and April.

A spokeswoman added: “The ongoing engagement around future phases of the m.connect roll-out is raising a number of specific aspects for us to consider and we’re grateful to residents for sharing their views with us.

“All suggestions, concerns and options will be considered as planning for the next phase gets underway immediately after these events have taken place.”

More m.connect consultation events are due to take place on Tuesday at Lossiemouth Community Centre at 6pm, on Wednesday at 6pm at Elgin Community Centre and at 12.15pm on Friday at Elgin Library.