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News / Feedback sought about Shetland’s bus service

SHETLAND Islands Council is seeking feedback about the quality of its bus service two years after a new network timetable was introduced.

The call comes as a study by Citizens Advice Scotland reveals that the SIC spent more per person on bus services than any other part of Scotland than the Western Isles.

Transport manager Michael Craigie explained that the high cost of bus transport in the isles relates to its geography.

The Round The Bend report on public transport shows that the SIC spent £1.65 million on its bus service last year, equating to almost £86 per adult.

This compares to almost £109 per adult in the Western Isles, while Orkney spent just over £33 and the national Scottish average was £11.

Craigie said that the long distances involved in Shetland bus journeys meant more fuel was burned, and vehicles suffered more wear and tear requiring more to be spent on maintenance, while the relatively small population meant fewer people used the service.

However he said the time had come to review the existing service to find out if it was meeting people’s needs and if money could be spent more effectively, especially at a time of continuing public spending cuts.

“We are not at the end of a period of austerity and so when when we’re faced with the need to make cuts we need to make sure we are providing a bus service that is value for money,” he said.

This week the council launched its Shetland Place Standard consultation asking the local population for their views about a wide range of local services.

“Now that the network has been in place for two years, the next step is to look in some detail at how its being used and if it’s not being used well, how to respond to that,” Craigie said.

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“We want to understand people’s needs and develop a network that reflects those needs.

“This local consultation will help us understand whether we are delivering something of value to the community.”

He explained that the transport partnership ZetTrans carried out two tendering exercises to come up with the current network, after the initial attempt to maintain service levels would have cost an extra £1.5 million the council could not afford.

Instead they went back to the drawing board and came up with a new approach that came within budget without impacting negatively on the timetable.

This week Craigie said the new network had “bedded in well” and the feedback had been largely positive, aside from “a few gripes” on the west side and in Lerwick.

“We want to provide a service that helps Shetland have a healthy economy and community,” he said.

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