Bus contracts plan stalls amid fears over service cuts

In an embarrassing about-face the council has been forced to abandon its plans to award 288 new bus contracts for school and public services.

Instead, existing contracts are going to be extended until the end of March next year.

A tendering process that began earlier this year was intended to simplify the hugely complicated system of contracts, and to save money. But once the tenders were received and analysed they were found to be “more than we could afford,” in the words of the chairman of the council’s development committee Alistair Cooper.

“The reality is,” Mr Cooper said, “that when the tenders came back in, with the way the contracts had been packaged, it was going to be very difficult to do as much as we would like to do, and there was going to be potential for serious diminution of the service.”

Back in March, transport officials assured councillors that a series of criteria had been devised that would allow cuts to be made to the £3.6 million service in the least damaging way possible, should a scenario such as this emerge. But after two meetings held in private this week it seems that no satisfactory conclusion could be found.

Alistair Cooper said that, despite this setback, bus operators were continuing to hold talks with the SIC, and he was confident that new contracts could be awarded before the end of the financial year.

However, “I think we have to be honest and say that there will be a diminution of the service,” he added. “What we’re trying to do is [to continue to provide] as much of the stuff which allows folk to have some sort of a life out in the periphery, bearing in mind that the bus users are the ones that doesna hae a car, is on low incomes, and that we need to protect as best we can.”

Mr Cooper explained that “For the current year there is sufficient money to extend the existing contracts,” but that this could not be allowed to continue. Cuts would have to be made in the next financial year.

“We’re looking to achieve what we can,” he said, “and we may have to come back and say ‘well, this is what we can do with the money we have; this is what’s going to have to fall off, possibly’. And we have to have a dialogue, and we have to understand the consequences of some of that stuff falling off, if you know what I mean. And that’s when the difficult decisions have to be made.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Cooper added: “Having an effective and efficient bus service is vital for our economy. The council and ZetTrans are working with bus operators to establish a network which meets our needs and which we can afford.”


Add Your Comment
  • Brian Smith

    • July 3rd, 2013 22:27

    There won’t be a ‘diminution of service’ for 95% of councillors, because they never use the things. Much easier to cut something that someone else needs . . .

  • Sandy McMillan

    • July 4th, 2013 0:19

    Once again the Council will hit them that are in need of a service, This Council again don’t seem to know what they are doing, as long as it does not effect them.

  • John Tulloch

    • July 4th, 2013 7:55

    Whit wye do we nivver hear ony wird aboot “da need ta reduce wir carbon fitprint” noo-a-days?

    Dat wis wint ta be da maist imporrtint thing of aa’? I tocht at electric buses wi’ free fuel fae windmills wis gyaa’in’ ta be compulsory?

    Whit aboot wir graand-bairns noo?

  • Johan Adamson

    • July 4th, 2013 9:27

    Finally, a realisation that buses need to be paid for and costs have gone up. And with the gas plant, there are even fewer buses and drivers available for the contracts and the school runs. They can charge what they like. They are talking about only picking the bairns up for school from certain points and making them walk two miles. Forget about it on our roads with the lack of pavements and dangerous routes. I wonder if the closure of the junior highs looks so efficient now because that means even more busing? Oh, but silly me, this is a different budget so you dont have to look at anything outside your particular silo.

  • Harry Dent

    • July 4th, 2013 12:37

    This will obviously affect residents who cannot afford a car, but it all also damage tourism; not every visitor to the islands can drive.

    Along with the closure of Clickimin camp site, the message is getting louder and clearer that Shetland isn’t especially bothered whether it attracts visitors or not.

  • Christopher Ritch

    • July 4th, 2013 16:41

    Well well. Transport costs are more than SIC expected. Please take note all councillors in favour of shutting rural schools – transport costs will only ever get higher.

  • Sandy McMillan

    • July 4th, 2013 18:13

    What I cant understand why is the Council still hitting the vulnerable, Is it not time they opened there eyes and started to take from the Departments that are grossly over paid and over staffed,
    The latest story is that the Christmas Bonus is in the firing line to be cut back, the Xmas bonus is about all we get from the Oil fund, I sense fear in the Council camp when it comes to removing the over abundant, over paid Top Guns, get a grip the Twenty Two of you Democratically elected members, help the folk of Shetland that are in need, instead of trampling them into the ground.


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