Moray Council has come to the rescue of villagers who faced being cut adrift miles from their nearest grocery store when a vital bus service is axed.
Residents in Garmouth and Kingston were left stunned when Stagecoach announced the scrapping of the 34 service between the neighbouring villages and Elgin from next month.
However, the local authority has now unveiled plans to run a replacement bus between Garmouth, Kingston, Lhanbryde and Elgin five times a day.
The service will start on Saturday, April 16 – two days before the Stagecoach vehicle makes its final journey.
Members of the authority’s economic development and infrastructure services committee approved plans for the replacement service yesterday.
Councillors were told the loss of the bus link would substantially increase villagers’ “degree of social isolation”.
Stagecoach said the route was so unpopular it was left with “no option” but to axe it.
But Fochabers Lhanbryde councillor Douglas Ross said countless residents contacted him with worries over its withdrawal.
And he said the firm’s announcement compounded the woes of Garmouth residents, who recently lost their last grocery store.
He added: “There was a real feeling of loss from many people in the community.
“The bus service was popular and people of all ages have contacted me about losing it.
“While the council’s proposal does not replicate exactly what was provided by the service 34 route, it does provide vital links between the communities and Elgin.
“I’m delighted we will have a council-run service starting immediately after the Stagecoach one is removed, so local people will see some continuity.”
Fellow ward member Sean Morton said he would now press the local authority to consider introducing bus services from Garmouth to Fochabers and Mosstodloch.
Mr Morton said: “A positive thing about this is that a council-run service can be designed that better suits the needs of the community.
“I know many passengers would welcome a service that links Garmouth with Fochabers and Mosstodloch as well and I’ll be pushing for that in the coming weeks.”
Moray Council also agreed to a one-year trial for a new twice-weekly bus service between Marypark, Knockando, Archiestown and Elgin.
The three Speyside communities currently have no timetabled bus service and are dependent solely on the council’s Dial M for Moray community bus service.