Success of West Lothian community bus service as pilot project extended

A community bus service introduced at the height of the second lockdown has been so successful it is set to be extended for another year.

Service to Broxburn and Uphall will also add more journeys and operate on Saturdays.

Acting head of public transport Nicola Gill told a meeting of the Development and Transport PDSP that passenger numbers had increased steadily throughout the year and the bus was providing a vital service for the elderly. accessing shops and medical facilities in the city.

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Out of 354 tickets sold in the first month of April last year, figures for February this year showed 855 tickets sold. The service has regularly exceeded the 800-passenger mark since August.

In her report, Ms Gill added: “As expected, the largest demographic group using the service are dealer cardholders over the age of 60, who account for 82% of all journeys made. Paying adults represent 16% of trips and children and temporary tickets represent 1% each.

“Although nationwide bus ridership has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, stable ridership can be seen on the community bus service over the past 6 months of operation. It would therefore not be unreasonable to expect a further increase in attendance if the service continues in 2022-23.

Some local bus services have suffered from lack of demand during the shutdowns, and services have also been hit by driver shortages which have disrupted timetables.

The service was provided by HcL. The report added that following customer surveys, it could be added as passenger numbers increase after the lockdown.

The report states: “The cost of service for operation in the 2022-23 financial year is £66,588. This cost includes schedule changes to increase the frequency of hourly service and for Saturday operation to replicate the level of service provided on other council-subsidized city services.

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Councilor Chris Horne said: “It looks like this has been a successful pilot through less than ideal times. What do you think will be the impact as we move into more normal times?”.

Ms Gill said: ‘We have to be measured but it’s quite positive. We sought to compare revenue to other downtown services that have been established for a number of years. That a service that has just started during a pandemic is comparable to other successful municipal services is a good sign. I’d like to think we’re going to see patronage grow even more.

The decision whether or not to continue the service next year, and whether to extend it, will be made next week by the council executive.

Melvin Z. Madore