Scottish bus row imminent
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• A storm is brewing in Scotland over bus services, with organized opposition to the Scottish Bus Group now more evident and more determined than in the past, writes a special correspondent. The recent grant of substantial fare increases to the Group—coinciding with decimalization— has started a massive flow of protest from one end of Scotland to the other.
This is nothing new, in the sense that complaints regarding service are normal and continuous. The real difference on this occasion is that local authorities are accepting that protest by the usual route—through appearance at public inquiries—is futile.
Indeed there were many present at the last Perth inquiry who left saying, "After this we need never oppose a fare increase again". New policy appears to be to survey services and to provide detailed, specified deficiency-reports, with a political background perhaps, but certainly with a degree of axe grinding.
The Liberal MP for the Borders, Mr David Steel, has condemned the Group's operation in the Borders and has challenged the Scottish Office to investigate the whole operation of passenger services in Scotland. He has claimed that the public are "fed up to the back teeth", that there is "an endless flow of justified complaints" and that the Group has "failed to realize that it is useless to run industrial-type services in the rural areas".
The SBG answer has normally been—and is again in this instance—that the main factor in its present difficulties is the increasing cost and scarcity of labour, and that many of the suggested remedies advanced by their critics, such as more o-m-o, employing smaller buses, are just not feasible, nor are they really solutions.