Southside communities, fearing they’ll be trapped when left without a bus service, turned out in force to a public meeting at Tinto Primary School, Hillpark on Thursday 8 March.
More than 160 people crowded into the school dining hall to hear Glasgow Cathcart MSP James Dornan, who had called the meeting, say he was hugely disappointed in First Bus for withdrawing the 29 bus route from 29 April. ‘My office has been innundated with people made anxious by this decision. I believe First Bus has a social responsibility to provide a service in areas like Hillpark and Mansewood which would be devastated if this goes ahead. I am hugely disappointed in First Bus for withdrawing this service without any consultation with the local community or passengers. Cutting off vital services to some of the most needy communities in Glasgow is not the way to respond to the tough economic background.’
In a civil but unswerving meeting, the two First Bus representatives heard the concerns of local residents.
Said 81-year-old David Boyd who lives in one of the Hillpark tower blocks: ‘I’ve no way of getting up the hill without a bus and there are 500 households in Hillpark to be considered.’
Lynn Campbell who works for Glasgow Old People’s Welfare Association and whose elderly father lives locally, asked: ‘Was a feasibility study done? Has the route made a profit in previous years? What about the families you rely on the bus to get to work?’ She also commented that there was no additional security by way of police presence or CCTV despite the high percentage of elderly people in the area. Addressing the bus company representatives she added: ‘What you are doing is WRONG! There is a bigger social picture than the economic picture you see.’
Glasgow City Councillor Colin Deans said from the floor of the hall: ‘the company should take a holistic approach. They could cut the number 38 bus service which has one bus every six minutes and serves an area with a much higher percentage of car ownership.’ He added that in fairness to First Bus, it wasn’t all their fault. ‘The fuel duty rebate will be going to rural bus companies now.’
One local resident told of an encounter with an elderly neighbour: ‘She can’t walk far and uses a walking stick. She told me she won’t be able to get out if the 29 bus is withdrawn. This is her only means of getting to the supermarket which is also her social outing. But she was prepared to wait an hour in a cold bus shelter to get a bus back as she couldn’t afford anything else.’
Two mothers also explained that the 29 was the only bus they could use to take their children from Shawlands where they lived, to Tinto Primary School which they attended and where the meeting was being held. ‘There is no other bus. So how do we get our children to school?’ said one mum.
Josephine Docherty of the Community Council, said there should have been a consultation meeting and that the Community Council should have been involved.
Emma Gillan, Labour candidate for Glasgow City Council commented that she was disappointed that no ideas were being presented at the meeting. ‘There is no reason why re-routing cannot be done.’
Councillor Stephen Curran who attended the meeting which was on his ‘patch’ urged the communities to ‘stick together’ to win the case: ‘We did this before when the ‘wee happy bus’ was removed. All parties need to work together on this through Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Parliament and we are willing to do that.’ He said that while one in five residents in Glasgow was elderly, there was a much higher proportion in the Hillpark and Mansewood areas. ‘There are also families to be considered. If the 29 bus service is withdrawn there will be an area of five miles left with no bus service.’ He said there had been no ‘joined up’ thinking because bus shelters had been erected only two weeks ago.
MSP James Dornan who chaired the meeting said in summing up: ‘I’ve been extremely encouraged by (SPT) Strathclyde Partnership for Transport’s willingness to recognise the impact of losing the 29 bus service. It may be possible to re-route another service.’ He emphasised that SPT considered it would be illegal for funding to be set aside for specific routes. ‘But we can lobby hard for a re-allocation of funding as SPT is keen to see a solution.’ He added that Glasgow City Council funding might be found to bridge the gap in service. At the end of the meeting he told this website: ‘I’m much more hopeful we will be able to arrange something to keep the 29 running through Hillpark and Mansewood. I’m also hoping to meet with First Glasgow’s managing director to take this forward.’
For First, Chris Carberry the company’s Network Planner said: ‘Never say never! We want to work in partnership and as a commercial company don’t want to be left behind.’ But he explained that there had been major changes in how the Scottish Government’s transport subsidy now had to be allocated and that there was competition from other companies which hadn’t been there before. He also emphasised that ‘for years the 29 route has not made money.’ In the past, revenue generating routes were able to subsidise loss making ones, but competition now made that impossible.
After the meeting he said that under company policy he was not permitted to speak to the press and a statement would be issued by the company. When that statement is received it will be put up on this website.
From 1 April this year the Scottish Government’s grant to bus companies will total £50 million for the year 2012-13 – a reduction of 17% on previous funding. This will be allocated on distance travelled in an attempt to help rural areas and to encourage fuel efficiency. Previously the funding allocation was based on fuel used. Funding for concessionary travel will be capped at £187million from now till 2014/15.