New calls are underway to reintroduce a popular Lanarkshire bus service which was abandoned during the pandemic.
First Bus initially cut the X1 service between Hamilton and Glasgow in October 2019, but it was later reinstated after disgruntled locals launched a petition which reached 2,500 signatures.
However, it was pulled once again just a few months later when Covid-19 hit.
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First Glasgow said at the time it was no longer viable and canceled the service due to declining passenger numbers, with social distancing restrictions further impacting this.
Local residents called the 2020 decision ‘outrageous’ and ‘ridiculous’ as they expressed their disappointment.
Now, almost two years later, Monica Lennon, MSP for Central Scotland, and a local election candidate are pleading with the bus operator to bring back the X1.
And with the lifting of Covid measures, they believe the time has come to restore a “vital” community link for local bus users.
Ms Lennon says that should pave the way for the return of the X1, a move she says would help tackle the cost of living crisis.
She told Lanarkshire Live: “As the only direct link between Hamilton and Glasgow, local residents are understandably desperate to see the X1 reinstated.
“I knock on doors in Hamilton with Scottish Labor candidates and people are constantly asking about the X1.
“Our communities have been severely let down by First Glasgow, who have used the pandemic to withdraw this vital service.
“They put it down to passenger numbers and the viability of running the service while restrictions such as social distancing were in place.
“These issues are no longer in play – so it’s time to get the X1 back on the road.
“Hamilton residents are so keen to have a direct service to Glasgow, that constituents have contacted my office with all the alternative routes and solutions they can think of.
“I recently wrote to First and the Minister for Transport asking for a fresh look at transport links between Hamilton and Glasgow.
“The X1 provided a vital service to bring local residents to the city for work and education and Scottish Labor will continue to fight for better local bus services.”
Scottish Labor and Co-operative MSP rallied behind First Glasgow’s plans to scrap the express bus service in 2019 and people power appeared to win over Lanarkshire’s biggest bus operators.
But the celebrations were cut short when First made their dramatic turnaround.
Jim Lee, the Scottish Labor candidate for Hamilton West and Earnock ward in next month’s local election, said the issue had come up at the door several times during his campaign.
He said: “The removal of the X1 service has been a massive loss for the region, so it’s no surprise that it has been brought up repeatedly by residents over the past few weeks.
“Locals really depended on it for getting to work and college, as well as socializing and shopping downtown.
“Only Scottish Labor makes it a priority.”
Another candidate in next month’s election is Mark McGeever, who recently took to social media to support calls for the X1 to be reinstated.
He said: ‘The loss of the X1 has severely affected residents’ and called on Hamilton to be ‘properly connected to the city center and beyond by a convenient, reliable and cheap bus system’.
He added: “It’s vital for the economy, businesses and people’s life chances.”
Paul Clark, Chief Operating Officer of First Glasgow, told us: “We continue to experience a severe shortage of drivers, and although we are recruiting aggressively to combat this, we still have a considerable way to go before we reach the levels staffing. which would support network-wide pre-pandemic frequencies.
“Only once we reach this stage will we then be able to consider other network expansion opportunities such as X1.
“Demand for bus services is currently at 70% of pre-pandemic levels and we are seeing some changes in people’s travel patterns that appear to have become permanent.
“For example, fewer people are working in the office every day, which further reduces the demand for express services, mainly during peak periods, such as X1.
“We will continue to review our services and passenger demand as our number of drivers increases in the hope that more services will return to the network in the future.”
Also running in this year’s local elections for Hamilton West and Earnock ward: Mary Donnelly (SNP); Allan Falconer (Labour); Graham William Fisher (Conservative and Unionist Party); Leonard Gingell (Scottish Green Party); Graeme Horne (SNP); and Mark McGeever (Liberal Democrats).
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