THE announcement of the continuation and expansion of the Scottish bus pass scheme ("Bus pass scheme extended to carers of young disabled", The Herald, August 3) has been greeted with largely approving voices.

However, there are some dissenting voices among the operators, as they only receive 56.8 per cent of the adult single fare for each journey. This may sound generous enough, but when the proportion of passengers with passes is steadily rising, then operators are faced with little alternative but to raise fares. This can then lose them more passengers than they gain, as so many passengers are too poor to pay more.

So what signs are there of problems with the overall health of our bus services? Just in my region, First Bus has announced revised (or reduced) Livingston services from August 6, Falkirk services from August 20, then Stirling services from September 9. However the resulting changes in West Lothian have been so badly received by passengers, that Lothian Buses is starting competing services from August 19, partly to plug some of the gaps. So a new bus war ensues, as the private sector goes into another market failure, and the public sector has to regain the operation for it to continue.

This, the "Lothian Buses solution" is not available outside of the former Lothian Region. Smaller operators seem to have little enthusiasm to start new services, as the level and certainty of profits just isn't there. So will the new Scottish Transport Bill, come quickly enough to prevent further loss of passengers? Frankly, I don't see where the funding is coming from, for councils to set up anything remotely like Lothian Buses, to compete with existing (even if declining) bus services.

Bus usage should not be declining, when car ownership levels are barely moving, and more people qualify for free bus travel. At the very least, reimbursement rates to operators for pass holders should be de-coupled from the commercial adult fares, if the Scottish Government continues to underfund the scheme.

Arthur Homan-Elsy,

55 Deanburn Road, Linlithgow.