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Ross-shire villages hit by cuts to Stagecoach bus services to hold outdoor meetings to discuss solutions

By Alasdair Fraser

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MSP Maree Todd and Cllr Ian Cockburn after meeting with Contin residents earlier this year.
MSP Maree Todd and Cllr Ian Cockburn after meeting with Contin residents earlier this year.

MOVES to create a lifeline community transport network serving four Ross-shire villages hit by severe bus timetable cuts are gathering pace.

Community leaders in Contin, Strathpeffer, Marybank and Garve have been working together in search of solutions to the sudden blow of losing regular Stagecoach services.

Two public meetings have now been set up to discuss ideas and gauge support and demand for various options. The unexpected reduction in timetables, announced last December and taking effect from February, have created serious problems for many without access to cars.

Contin was particularly hard hit after losing hourly services.

A significant number of local residents have struggled to find affordable transport to work, education, hospital appointments and other vital services.

Contin, Strathpeffer and Marybank community councils and Garve and District Development Trust teamed up to form a steering group to investigate solutions, enlisting Edinburgh-based transport consultant Derek Halden to advise on how community-run transport might work.

Mr Halden, a director of the firm Loop Connections, has since consulted with local people by telephone and drafted a report on his findings. He will address the socially-distanced, outdoor public consultations on Wednesday, July 22, held under gazebos at Contin football ground and clubhouse, Munro Park, from 2-4pm and at Strathpeffer football pitch from 5.30pm to 6.30pm.

A third meeting is planned for Garve at a date yet to be announced.

Potential solutions being mooted range from scheduled community buses and mini-buses to community cars.

Contin Community Council chairwoman Norma Ross said: “It is difficult given the Covid-19 situation, but we felt outdoor consultations were the best way to get people together safely.

“It is absolutely vital we get feedback from as many individuals as possible. If they don’t tell us exactly what they need and are prepared to use, then we won’t be able to provide it.

“Cuts in the Stagecoach service have created serious problems. A neighbour of mine had to get to accident and emergency the other day and there were no buses or ambulances available.

“Fortunately, Contin Community Council, with some Covid-19 money it has, was able to pay for a taxi.

“People have had other problems such as collecting prescriptions and transporting young children to and from nurseries.

“These are serious issues.”

Ross MSP Maree Todd is backing the drive for a community service and said: “I’m pleased to see significant progress being made towards securing a community transport service in Contin.”

“I recently attended a virtual meeting to discuss the feasibility of this which proved to be very promising.

“We know that public transport is a lifeline for many rural residents across the Highlands.

“Insufficient transport links can leave vulnerable community members isolated, lonely and unable to access vital services from education to health – with Covid-19 only adding to this.

“I’ve witnessed first-hand how the Contin community has pulled together and I’m confident this will be demonstrated in the public consultations taking place later this month.”

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