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Transport / Sharp drop in number of bus journeys on some routes

The new bus service contract starts on 18 August this year - Photo: ShetNews

SHETLAND Transport Partnership will carry out a survey over the coming months to establish why fewer and fewer islanders are using the bus network.

Based on current usage numbers, ZetTrans expects to generate £210,000 less in bus fare income in 2019/20 than in the current year. That’s an income reduction of almost 25 per cent.

The bus routes that have seen the largest drop in passenger numbers are the Lerwick town service and the North mainland routes, a ZetTrans meeting heard on Thursday.

Another reason given for the significant reduction in income was the growing number of concession fare users. ZetTrans only recovers 57 per cent of those fares from the Scottish Government.

While the sharp drop in bus journeys reflects a national trend, local transport officials are keen to find out what they can do to reverse the trend locally ahead of the tendering process for the next public bus contract due to get under way later this year.

ZetTrans chairman Ryan Thomson said the transport partnership needed to speak to those who had stopped using the bus service to better understand what adjustments were needed to make travelling by bus more attractive.

“The important thing is that we need to speak to the people that are not using the bus service, and specifically to those who used to use the service but aren’t anymore,” Thomson said.

“Monday to Friday 9 to 5 jobs are probably in the minority now as people’s work patterns are changing. I suspect the bus service has not quite adapted to that.

“The changes are not just here in Shetland, it’s a nationwide trend.

“But what is clear is that we need to reach the people who have stopped using the bus and those who want to use the bus, but where the service does not quite fit around the times when they want to use it.’

Lead transport officer Michael Craigie added: “People’s awareness of the benefits of active travelling are rising, and public transport fits into that.

“We need to tap into that and help people understand the choices they can make, and we can affect our income through that.”