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Council Acts Swiftly to Replace Postbus Withdrawals

18th April 2009

The Highland Council has put in place interim arrangements in five Highland communities to replace postbus services withdrawn by Royal Mail on Thursday.

These arrangements will continue until the Council has met with local communities to identify sustainable long term arrangements.

The Council is disappointed that its representations to Royal Mail and the UK Government to continue the postbus services have been unsuccessful.

The services withdrawn by Royal Mail are:-Thurso - Tongue; Bettyhill - Thurso; Diabaig - Achnasheen; Applecross - Torridon and Shieldaig - Strathcarron.

Convener Sandy Park said: "I am very disappointed that Royal Mail have confirmed their withdrawal from the five routes. However, transport officers within TEC Services have moved promptly to put in place short-term replacement services in these rural communities. We will closely monitor the effectiveness of these interim arrangements before consulting with local communities about a sustainable way forward."

On the North Coast, Council support has been provided to a voluntary sector group, Transport for Tongue, to set up and operate a community car scheme in the Tongue area. Volunteer drivers will provide transport, using their own cars, to residents who do not have other transport available. It is expected that this will be operating within the next few weeks, with other elements of the Transport for Tongue project to be introduced later.

The decision to award the grant has been brought forward because of the postbus withdrawals.

Also, an existing bus contract with Stagecoach has been increased so that:

An existing 2 days/week off-peak Thurso-Bettyhill service has been converted to 5 days/week, including a route extension to Tongue. The existing outward journey at 10.55 am has been retimed to 9.40 am to match the postbus times. Return times are close to the previous postbus timetable.

Two Thurso-Tongue return trips per day have also been introduced on Saturdays.

The 4 pm Thurso - Bettyhill bus will extend to Tongue on request, although this is only a short-term arrangement until Transport for Tongue are ready to commence operations.

In Wester Ross, arrangements have been made with Lochcarron Garage for services which will replace the Applecross - Torridon and Diabaig - Achnasheen postbuses on similar timetables, albeit on an on-request basis. Bookings are required by 6 pm on the previous day (6pm on Saturdays for a Monday journey) by phoning Lochcarron Garage on 01520 722205. 4-seater cars will be used which is the same as the existing capacity on the Applecross route, but less than on the Diabaig route. However, both cars will be able to cover the Torridon - Achnasheen section if demand exceeds the capacity of one car.

The Shieldaig - Strathcarron postbus is the least used of the network, and other existing buses provide adequate alternatives. A small diversion to Achintraid is being added to DMK Motors' Shieldaig - Strathcarron bus route on request as this diversion was only served by the postbus.

All of these new services will commence on Monday 20 April.


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