Saturday, January 18, 2020
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Posters put up by volunteers

There was strong criticism today (Apr 24) over the continuing silence from Highland Council over the on-going public transport row involving the south of Skye.

As revealed in the Skye Times on Friday due to a dispute between the local authority and McLeans Coaches there is now no public bus service from Portree to Armadale for the forseeable future.

In an open letter to the Highland Council, SkyeConnect's Rob Ware said: "I have to say that it is extremely disappointing to hear nothing further after the extensive dialogue on Friday last which confirmed that there would be no public bus service from today on the Armadale/Broadford/Portree service.

You will be aware that the Sleat Transport Forum has been highlighting for weeks the issues that would arise if the Highland Council could not reach agreement to provide a service that was planned to be effective  from today.

​You will also be aware that I asked on Friday what communications were to be put in place to advise customers that there would be no service from today. I have received no response to that.

As a result I spent many hours of my time at the weekend using various media channels to notify public transport providers such as CalMac and Scotrail that there would be no service for their passengers arriving at Armadale and those intending to travel southbound to Armadale. Insult was added when the hard copy timetables for the school 152 service were sent to my house for affixing to the timetables, which I am happy to do but effectively with the one service per day  is of no use to visitors or residents at the time it operates.

I have affixed posters in the Armadale Pier Timetable apologising to travellers that with no bus services from the Pier, potentially until 5th June and these are shown attached. The item was extensively circulated to local media outlets and staff at CalMac at Mallaig and Armadale were asked to advise passengers. Already today some visitors have had to take a taxi north.

Given that almost every CalMac terminus on the CHFS network has a bus service to meet a ferry within a reasonable time it is unbelievable that this scenario has been allowed to happen when back as early as February Councillor Fraser was assisting in discussions.

As I write Traveline has still not removed the 601 service that terminated on Saturday from its website, albeit it has tiny red warning triangle against any service item.

The Forum appreciates that the re-tendering of routes is a complex and unpredictable process but even the most casual observer would say that leaving it until 48 hours before a service is due to commence is sheer incompetence and proves that the process is seriously flawed..

It should not be volunteers like my colleagues and I to have to address these failures. You will be aware the of appalling service provided by CalMac on the Mallaig-Armadale route last summer which is shaping up to be the same this year. We are all aware that the Skye tourism industry is second only to Edinburgh but service failures such as the 52 service at a time when visitors are coming to and from the island, combined with the haphazard ferry service is totally unacceptable.

The silence this morning suggests that this suspension of service may continue it would not unreasonable to offer passengers who were expecting  a bus service and who have had to take a taxi should be offered the chance for a refund. This is indicated in the posters affixed to the Sleat shelters.

Having spent a significant sum on new shelters for Sleat you won't be surprised at local criticism, its a big panel in each shelter for one school bus.

It would be useful if the responsible officials from Highland Council could update on progress and if this is not good news for an immediate commencement of service then an urgent Press Release for the public and visitors alike would be appropriate.

My colleagues and I do have better things to do on a weekend, but we care about our community but can't help feeling this debacle should have been avoided.


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