A service introduced in 2021 allowing passengers to take their bikes on popular Highland bus routes is to be extended to a wider range of journey options, along with the introduction of a booking service to guarantee a seat to accompany the free carriage of the bike.
The pilot service began in summer 2021 as a partnership between operators Scottish Citylink and Stagecoach and funded by Hitrans, the regional transport partnership for the Highlands and Islands. Two reusable ‘bike sock’ covers were made available on coach services provided by Stagecoach between Inverness and Caithness and Ullapool, and by Scottish Citylink on services between Inverness and Skye, Fort William and Ullapool. The covers fit over the wheels and chain mechanism, allowing the bike to be safely carried in the luggage compartment of the coach.
Data gathered during the pilot shows that the Ullapool/Inverness route was the most popular for bike carriage, mainly with people returning from completing the Hebridean Way cycle route. As a result, Scottish Citylink has introduced a booking service which enables travellers to book their bike on the bus at the same time they make their seat reservation; bike space can be reserved as an additional luggage item when buying a ticket online.
Routes to be included in the service are the 917 between Inverness and Portree; the 919 between Inverness and Fort William; 961 from Inverness to Ullapool; 914 Fort William to Glasgow, and 915/916 from Uig to Glasgow via Fort William.
Hitrans board member Councillor Ken Gowans said: “This excellent partnership with the bus operators is good news for local people wishing to take the bus and then cycle for their onward journey as well as visitors travelling to and from the Highlands and Islands for cycle touring holidays. It also enables car-free travel to parts of our region with no train service.”
Operations Director of Scottish Citylink Simone Smith commented; “We are delighted to be able to respond to the demand of our customers by offering a booking service and extending the number of routes on offer.”
Alex Flanagan, Stagecoach Operations Manager for Aviemore, Inverness and Tain, added: “We are delighted to be able to accommodate cycles more easily on some of our key routes.”