A budding politician has made a pledge to help boost rural bus services in Renfrewshire if she scores an election victory.
Gillian Graham will stand in the Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Howwood and Lochwinnoch ward at the forthcoming Scottish council elections on May 5.
The Labor candidate wants to pile on the pressure to have bus services brought back into public ownership, which she says will allow greater connectivity between West Renfrewshire’s outlying villages and improve rural services.
She hopes to see Renfrewshire Council working with neighboring local authorities to create a publicly-owned transport outfit.
New legislation will allow councils to run their own services from July, a move which Gillian has pledged to support.
Scottish Ministers have pledged that local authorities will have the power to run their own services from summer as part of the 2019 Transport (Scotland) Act.
It follows a delay on the legislation due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the Scottish Government hopes the change will give councils greater flexibility in finding solutions to transport challenges in their areas.
Political hopeful Gillian backed the move, saying: “Rural bus services have been decimated as a result of de-regulation almost 40 years ago.
“For too long decisions on bus services have been driven purely by profit and not the needs of the local community and passengers.
“Cuts and changes to services have made life more difficult for passengers and currently you cannot get a bus between the villages of Kilbarchan and Bridge of Weir.”
She added: “Passengers from Lochwinnoch, many of whom are older people, have to get two buses to get to Kilbarchan and since last summer weekday daytime passengers from Kilbarchan have had to get two buses to Johnstone Railway Station. Rural passengers, whether using buses for shopping, GP visits or commuting, are telling me the current service isn’t fit for purpose.
“There has never been a more critical time for improving and protecting bus services.
“The rocketing price of fuel and the need to reduce carbon emissions post COP 26 mean that every encouragement for people to transfer to buses must be given.”
Additional problems have been thrown up for communities since transport changes in the wake of the pandemic and amidst rising fuel costs as operators are hit in the pocket.
We told just two weeks ago Renfrew-based coach outfit Gibson’s went to the wall, blaming the impact of the outbreak on business.
And Gillian believes communities want to see improved links, saying: “Every public consultation has been seen overwhelming support for buses to be brought back into public ownership, with services that are tailor-made for local communities.
“In order to achieve this the council needs to have far more influence on routes timetables and particularly fares, providing a service for which they are accountable.
“I will work towards that aim urging Renfrewshire Council to work with neighboring authorities to provide such a service The message from passengers I have spoken with is the sooner this happens the better.”
She is being supported in her bid by a fellow candidate for the ward and former sitting councillor, Chris Gilmour.
Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government commissioned a transport white paper in the 1980s, which led to the 1986 de-regulation of the bus industry in Scotland, England and Wales.
The move, enshrined in the Transport Act 1985, saw the transfer of large-scale bus operations from public bodies such as municipal operators who were not subject to competition, opening up the industry to private operators, sparking stiff competition on profitable routes.
Union bosses issued warnings at the time about the impact of de-regulation.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.