Shetland’s bus network will be retained, and in some cases increased, after five-year contracts for the local network of public and school bus services were approved today.
The transport partnership ZetTrans and the SIC say they have approved a network which reduces costs, through packaging services together and integrating school transport to make the most of vehicles and staff.
The network is designed to remove duplication and overspending on services, and in some areas the level of service will be increased, according to transport planning manager at the council, Michael Craigie. He highlighted some of the increased services – these include the Sumburgh Airport route, improvements on the West Side including evening services, and more frequent journeys to Brae.
In 2012/13 the budget for public and school bus services was £3.66 million. For this financial year that was reduced to £2.89 million – a 22.3 per cent reduction in budget.
But the council has allocated an extra £500,000 to provide the full network needed to meet social and economic needs rather than making significant cuts to services.
Spending still remains within the constraints set by the council’s medium term financial plan.
Over the five year period of the contracts, the SIC says it will save more than £5.5 million. Compared to tender prices in March 2013, the cost of a similar network is down from £4.486 million to £3.384, the council said. This is a reduction of £1.2 million or 25 per cent.
SIC Convenor Malcolm Bell, said: “We understand that a robust public bus service is an essential part of island life.
“I’m delighted with this outcome, which sees significant savings and a more balanced and integrated service.
“We were faced with having to cut things like all our evening and Sunday services, dial-a-ride services, shopping trips and some feeder services to stick firmly within this year’s target.
“The flexibility built into this approach means we can retain – and in some cases increase – our network, while staying within the funding available.”
ZetTrans vice-chairman Michael Stout, said there had been “a huge amount of work” that had gone into the new network and it was “a very meaningful saving”.
Mr Bell added: “We’re very keen to protect and enhance rural areas and the bus service is a key part of doing that.”
The new public and school services are to run from 18th August.
Mr Craigie said there would be a change in fares with the network – some fares would increase in some areas, some would stay the same and others would decrease.
Mr Stout said it was a case of “fair fares” and prices would be linked to how far people travel.
Bus operators will be notified this week about the outcomes of their bids.
New timetables, fare structures and travel information will be published later in the summer.
Mr Craigie said information would be available through a range of sources, such as online on the SIC and ZetTrans websites, at travel.shetland.org and at bus shelters.