Perthshire residents launch own bus service

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The bus provides an hourly service to Kinross, with onward connections to other major centres. The timetable is easy to find on the group’s website. GLENFARG COMMUNITY BUS GROUP

A replacement bus service operated by local residents in Glenfarg is proving a hit

Widely reported across the Scottish press and television in recent weeks is the story of the residents of a Perthshire village who have been operating their own bus service following the loss of one provided by a local operator. Service 55 between Glenfarg and Kinross was cancelled earlier this year after the owners of operator Earnside Coaches retired.

However, a group of local volunteers decided to resurrect the route, and following the recruitment of three full-time drivers the service has been re-instated and is said to be proving more popular than ever. Operating hourly from around 0700 to 1800hrs on Mondays to Saturdays, Glenfarg Community Transport Group reports that the service now carries around 300 passenger journeys per week, an increase of 200 on last year.

Group chairman Drew Smart told the BBC: “Behind those 300 journeys every week, there are 300 stories. It’s a great bus to be on, the banter, the number of problems we solve or try to solve. It’s not about buses, it’s really about people.”

He said running the service themselves gives the route a flexibility it did not have in the past, adding: “We’ve got a few people, because of mobility issues, we don’t expect them to come to the bus stop, we’ll come into the village and pick them up at the door. When we get into Kinross we’ll drop them at the door of where they’re going. The drivers are brilliant, they go well above and beyond.”

One of the passengers said: “I don’t drive so it was a nightmare before. We needed the service. It’s great, everybody loves it.”

Meanwhile, David Keith, one of the route’s full-time drivers, said the passenger numbers have exceeded expectations: “We have our regulars, but we see more and more people coming on who have never used the service before,” he said. “I love coming into my work and meeting the people, numerous people in the village say it’s transformed their lives.”

The service connects with other routes at Kinross park & ride site, enabling people to make longer regional journeys to the likes of Edinburgh, Dundee or Perth, and the timetable is such that workers can take advantage of the route to travel to and from work.

Funding for the service has been provided by from Perth and Kinross Council, with additional backers including the Smarter Choices Smarter Places charity fund. Community Bus Group Treasurer Douglas Fraser explained: “We also liaised with Glasgow Community Transport who have been a big help to us as well. It is a daunting prospect, but if you’ve got a group of people who are dedicated and can see the benefit in the long run, it’s well worth doing.”

Given its success, the group says it is looking at expanding its services and considering a route to Perth.

A Perth and Kinross Council spokesperson told local media: “We are pleased that by supporting Glenfarg Community Transport Group, it has empowered them to operate community-led public transport solutions in their area. The success, to date, of their Service 55 and other public transport offers, has highlighted the vital role that Community Transport fulfils in delivering a sustainable transport alternative to the car.”