Plans to suspend and reduce two local bus services criticised by MSPs

Plans to suspend and reduce two bus services in Perth and Kinross have been criticised, with claims residents will be “cut off” from parts of the region and beyond.

First Bus’s X53 route, which links Kinross and Stirling, will be temporarily halted from January due to a driver shortage.

It was brought in just 14 months ago to replace Stagecoach’s 23 service, which travelled on the same route.

Mid Scotland and Fife Green MSP Mark Ruskell has launched a campaign in relation to the service, urging local residents to write to First Bus to reconsider.

He also believes the move will “worsen the climate crisis” due to it resulting in more cars taking to the road.

“If the X53 is cut then villages throughout Clackmannanshire will be effectively cut off from public transport,” Mr Ruskell said.

“If this cut goes ahead it will be a huge blow for residents, with many unable to use public transport to access healthcare, education and work.

“Any cut to public transport inevitably leads to more cars on the road, worsening the climate crisis, reducing air quality and making streets less safe.

“With free bus travel for under 22-year-olds just around the corner, now is not the time to be cutting lifeline services.

“That’s why I’m launching this campaign. I want those in charge to see the importance of this service to communities across the region.

“I urge First Bus to engage meaningfully with people who rely on this service and to reconsider this cut which will leave so many in Clackmannanshire isolated.”

Meanwhile Stagecoach’s X56 service, connecting Perth to Edinburgh, has been cut by half to just one coach every two hours.

Mid Scotland and Fife Conservative MSP Liz Smith has written to Stagecoach regional director, Sam Greer, offering her “full support” in keeping the service running as before.

“I am very concerned about the timetable cuts to the X56 Stagecoach service which will severely affect transportation options for those across rural communities,” she said.

Ms Smith continued: “This service is essential for access to healthcare for the elderly, and for students and some of the most vulnerable of Mid Scotland and Fife’s communities, across rural towns including Kelty, Kinross and Milnathort.

“The decision is particularly ill-timed considering the recent conclusion of COP26 in Glasgow which has encouraged us all to cut down on our carbon footprints. Access to greener transport options is vital if we are to meet our ambitious targets for cutting carbon emissions.

“I have written to Stagecoach seeking clarification for the decision and have offered my full support in ensuring the service returns to its more frequent operation.”

In response to Mr Ruskell’s X53 campaign, commercial director for First Bus in Scotland, Graeme Macfarlane, said: “We are doing everything we can to maintain a comprehensive network of services that supports our customers and our communities.

“The majority of routes are running normally although in some areas we are making temporary timetable adjustments to ensure a reliable service and minimise disruption.

“We thank customers for their patience and understanding while we overcome this short-term situation.

“The X53 is part of a number of further changes we are having to implement in order to address our on-going driver shortage issue.”

He added the service could be increased again if the number of drivers the firm has at its disposal increases.

A spokesperson for Perth -based Stagecoach East Scotland said: “We apologise to our customers who have been affected by travel disruptions in the area.

“Like many industries, we are experiencing a number of challenges due to national driver shortage.

“In an effort to reduce the impact to communities, tickets will be accepted on certain Citylink services, full details of which can be found on our website,

“The reduction to these services is a temporary measure until such time our staffing level returns to a point where can reliably operate our schedule.

“We have a strong pipeline of talented individuals currently in our training school which is at capacity. “

The firm’s representative added: “We understand these changes can be frustrating and would like to thank customers for their patience.”

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