West Lothian Council has approved a funding package worth nearly £400,000 per year to ensure that the 31 bus service continues.
The 31 service is an important service locally as it provides the only direct link from the Bathgate and Livingston areas to Torphichen, Philpstoun and Linlithgow. The 31 service is the only bus service available in both Torphichen and Philpstoun.
The 31 service is fully subsided by West Lothian Council. The council's subsidy currently provides additional stops in Ladywell and Dechmont. However time limited funding for the additional stops expires on 28 September meaning that the 31 service will no longer serve either Ladywell and Dechmont. In addition, E&M Horsburgh, who operate the 31 service for the council, have cancelled their contract for the entire 31 service which will be effective from 28 September.
Council officers have been looking at the options available and presented their findings and recommendations to the Council Execute today (Tuesday 20 August). The council's Public Transport team found that the current 31 service timetable overall was not reliable and the proved difficult to adhere to due to the slow moving vehicles on the rural parts of the route, which had a knock on effect on journeys thereafter
The Council Executive has now agreed to award the new contract to SD Travel. The new contract will shorten overall journey times for passengers but will result in a some changes to the service from Monday 30 September. These changes are summarized below:
- Wester Inch area will be omitted from the route. Less than 9 % of passenger journeys were taken to or from the Wester Inch area, so the impact on passengers should be reduced. Furthermore, Wester Inch has seen an improvement to overall bus services since Lothian Country introduced the 287 service last year. The subsided 5A/B service also continues to operate through the village, Wester Inch with approximately 3 buses per hour.
- Removing Wester Inch creates an opportunity to serve Bridgend in the revised 31 service route. Bridgend currently has a limited service following recent changes to the First Bus operated 38 service and the new 31 service will enhance bus services in the village.
The 31 service is operated over two separate subsidized contracts. One for an hourly service Monday - Saturday and one for a 2 hourly service on a Sunday. The Sunday service is contracted with E&M Horsburgh and has not been cancelled and will continue to be operated by E&M Horsburgh after the 28 September. It is recognized that in order to maintain consistency for passengers across the two contracts any changes made to the Monday- Saturday service should be replicated in the Sunday service. All other parts of the route will remain the same.
Executive councillor for Development and Transport, Cathy Muldoon, said:
"We're delighted to be able to provide a solution that will enhance the service in Bridgend and continue to serve areas within Bathgate, Livingston, Torphichen, Philpstoun and Linlithgow. The fact that the 31 serve is the only route within some of these villages highlights the importance of the route and a lot of work has gone into looking at the best option available within the limited funding that we have available to us.
"Bus services often change and we're satisfied that this option provides the best overall solution for those that use the service. Whilst Wester Inch will no longer be served by the 31 bus, there are other various alternative bus services in operation for those travelling to and from Wester Inch which will minimize the impact in that area."