I feel the need to put the record straight on the announcement that the Government is to provide £10 million of "additional" funding for the concessionary travel scheme ("Bus routes face axe after cuts", The Herald, February 1).
From a bus operator's perspective, this isn't additional money, this is only two-thirds of the money they owe us for free trips that will be made in March of this year anyway. Had this money not been found, bus operators would not have been paid for any trips made between March 3 and March 31. An outrage.
This under-funding was a serious crisis for companies such as ours and I know many smaller private companies would have gone under as a result of the non-payment. This £10m will reduce the shortfall to operators and allow us to trade through March. Credit should be given to Keith Brown for listening to the fears of small operators and realising the Government had to step up and, at least partly, meet its responsibilities. Well done to that Minister.
However, MSPs and local councillors should take note; the reduction in reimbursement for journeys made over the next two years means changes will have to be made. Bus companies, private ones at least, are not making huge profits, so there is no fat to be trimmed to absorb this cut. Bus companies are not daft, we have our customers at heart, they are our future after all and we will work hard to minimise the impact, but without doubt, change is on its way. This is no-one's fault; it is simply a sign of the times we are in, but will local politicians be able to resist playing the blame game? I doubt it.
It is time for our local politicians to look at this properly instead of going for soundbites. They say you can't get blood out of a stone; well, you can't run a bus on fresh air if there isn't enough revenue to buy diesel and pay for drivers' wages.
Ralph R Roberts,
McGill's Bus Service Ltd,
99 Earnhill Road,
Larkfield Industrial Estate, Greenock.
The Scottish Government has clearly decided not to address comprehensively the financial realities of operating the free travel scheme and has opted for some political tinkering, which could lead to any subsequent opprobrium being directed at the bus companies rather than the responsible politicians.
As a result, there are now many fare-paying bus travellers in Scotland faced with the distinct possibility of a reduction in or removal of their current essential services and fares increases.
Where is the equity in allowing well-remunerated bus travellers over 60 commuting free when those receiving modest wage packets have to pay full fare ?
Where is the basic common sense in allowing those, financially comfortable in retirement, to travel all over Scotland without charge?
I believe, particularly in the light of the news of last week, that the case for increasing the age at which the free bus pass becomes available and introducing a minimum charge is now so potent as to be irrefutable.
The alternative scenarios, being mooted by the bus firms in order to keep the free travel scheme going, should be unacceptable.
The position of the disabled should, of course, remain unchanged.
Ian W Thomson,
38 Kirkintilloch Road,