Graeme’s Column

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One of the main constituency issues occupying my time of late has been public transport.

To be more accurate, the reliability of such.

There is no denying the seriousness of matters here in Angus.

Bus driver shortages, caused either through illness of lack of numbers, have led to short notice cancellations which have caused very significant issues for those constituents who depend on these services.

The 73-service running up the coastal strip between Dundee and Arbroath has been particularly impacted. But I am also aware of reduced reliability on the number 20 serving Kirriemuir.

Dialogue with Stagecoach has revealed that the extent of the problem has led them to draft in drivers from St Andrews and Dunfermline to help alleviate the situation in the short term whilst a recruitment drive, including the holding of a special event at their Arbroath depot later this month, gathers speed.

Personally, I am no fan of the existing bus model we depend upon in this country and I look forward to the opportunities arising from the recently enacted legislation which will enable local authorities, should they desire, to enter into partnership or franchising arrangements, as an alternative to what we have presently.

In the meantime, we need to see improvement in the reliability of the services we have.

Trains too have been an issue with timetable reductions emanating from an indigenous pay rise claim never mind the UK wide strikes impacting Network Rail) and changes to services affecting Carnoustie and Monifieth, combining to create considerable dissatisfaction.

Reaching agreement on the Scottish specific issue, along with driver training ramping up, should see the timetable recovered and hopefully built upon.

Meanwhile, discussions I’ve had with ScotRail have led to a commitment to restore the Carnoustie commuter service to Dundee whose withdrawal has caused the most upset. They have also agreed to look again in due course at improving the direct links from Monifieth to Edinburgh.

I do though want to encourage constituents to support rail services as they return to something resembling pre-pandemic levels, albeit aligned to the changed travel patterns we will have post COVID-19.

Rail is a safe and environmentally responsible means of travel. We have seen, over the past decade, an increase in the number of trains serving the coastal strip of Angus and an accompanying rise in passenger numbers. But for the good of the planet and to ensure we maintain that service level we need to see an increase in footfall.