THE Scottish Government spends many millions of pounds on improving the road network, for example, the M74 extension, M8 and M9 dualling, the Aberdeen by-pass, and more. Millions are also spent on the rail network – rebuilding Glasgow Queen Street and Edinburgh Waverley stations; electrification of lines, and the £3.5 billion spent on day-to-day running which, is to increase by more than £500,000 over the next five years. Yet, despite buses being by far the most-used transport mode, with more than 388 million passenger journeys each year, they remain the poor relation. Patronage has fallen by eight per cent over the past five years, while services are axed or curtailed annually and fares rise, as the provision, or non-provision, of services is left entirely to the mercy of private operators, whose main concern is to turn a profit.

Here in Renfrewshire, air travellers and workers heading to Glasgow Airport would have been annoyed to find that from April 1 McGill’s no. 757 bus service, from Paisley to the airport, has been slashed from quarter-hourly to half-hourly. The Sunday service had earlier been reduced from three per hour to just one from May 7, 2018. About that time also, McGill’s axed two routes in the Bridge of Weir area, Numbers. 8 and 19. The X23 Erskine-Glasgow service has also recently been threatened with closure. First Glasgow discontinued its services from Glasgow to Kilmacolm and Bridge of Weir. It also cut back its No 9 Glasgow-Linwood service to Paisley. Similar service cuts are taking place all over Scotland. Most notably, in August 2016 First Scotland East withdrew entirely from running in East Lothian.

Declining services are not entirely the fault of the operators, but they may be attributed to the budget decisions of the Scottish Government. In fact, this was forecast by The Herald on February 1, 2013, under the headline "Bus services face axe after cuts – firms threaten poorer service as free travel funding is slashed". When the system was first introduced by the Labour/Lib Dem Government in 2006 bus firms were paid 73.6 per cent of the cost of an adult single fare and they were to be no better or no worse off for carrying disabled and elderly passengers for free. This was cut to 67 per cent in 2010 and was then to be cut to 58.1 per cent by 2014/15. Now the subsidy for 2019/20 is to be 56.5 per cent, with total payments capped at £213.65 million. In effect, bus operators will now be expected to carry many adult passengers at just over half-fare.

According to the order which introduced these reduced rates they were agreed with the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), which represents the interests of bus operators. The mystery, therefore, is why the CPT bus operators agreed to this and previous reductions, knowing that bus services would inevitably have to be cut or discontinued and fares raised.

Bus service cuts and fare rises do not affect Government ministers in their ministerial Mondeos, or MSPs who enjoy fat expense accounts, but they do have a drastic effect on the disabled, pensioners, the unemployed and the young, particularly in rural districts, at a time when banks, ATMs, JobCentres and shops are closing down, thereby necessitating longer journeys. Now, to cap it all, the SNP Government, at the behest of the insignificant Green Party, on whom it depends for a majority, is introducing a Workplace parking levy – to encourage workers to use buses, which are increasingly not there due to Scottish Government policy.

Robert D Campbell,

48 McLean Place, Paisley.

AS someone who lived to regret using the Caledonian Sleeper train in July 2016, I am sceptical of its vaunted refit, announced last week, considering the antediluvian service only three years ago made the Hogwarts Express look futuristic.

The bed would have shamed a homeless hostel, the putrescent breakfast mocked the Trades Descriptions Act, and it would have been easier to sleep in Eel Marsh House with the Woman In Black in a bad mood than the Euston to Glasgow: aside from the rail bumps, the window blinds crashed upwards without warning at random intervals throughout the night.

The complimentary "sleep over kit" – with accompanying leaflet entitled mockingly "Sweet Dreams on the Caledonian Sleeper" – comprised a measly flannel, paper-thin socks, two pathetic body wash and hand lotion sample bottles, ear plugs, an eye shade (for when one gives up on the blind staying down) and a "pillow spray to promote sleep". Unless they swap the spray for complimentary industrial strength Valium tablets, that sleep-over kit will remain as much use as a soluble life-raft.

All this for more than twice the cost and time of travelling by air, and having to go straight to bed upon returning home just to recover from the "good night's sleep" I'd supposedly had.

The new promotional pictures betray all that's been done is half the seats ripped out to provide little laptop desks, and everything redecorated in Harris Tweed beige rather than 1970s Plastic Blue. There may be two token USB ports in the rooms, but the beds look no different to those of the old sleepers. How that's all cost £100 million – five times the cost to refit Hampden Park for the Commonwealth Games – is beyond belief.

Mark Boyle,

15 Linn Park Gardens, Johnstone.