'340 Elgin circular service vital to OAPs'
PLANS to axe an Elgin bus route could have serious health consequences for the OAPs who rely on it, an MSP has warned.
David Stewart, a Shadow Minister for Health, is appealing to the Scottish Government for funding to keep the 340 circular service on the road.
Mr Stewart, a Highlands and Islands Labour MSP whose constituency includes Moray, says the bus is needed by people to get to Elgin's medical practices, Dr Gray's Hospital and to the town centre.
Deveron Coaches will stop running the service next month because funding provided to Moray Council from property developers has come to an end.
The MacDuff-based family-run bus firm says it simply cannot afford to operate the service unless it is subsidised.
Mr Stewart claims the cost of subsidising the service would save the NHS money in the long run.
He said: "Some older people are going to be cut-off from the centre of Elgin and left lonely and socially isolated and at high risk of related health problems like depression, cognitive decline and heart disease.
"Local transport campaigners who saw the writing on the wall for this bus service will remember handing a petition to Moray’s SNP MSP Richard Lochhead back in 2016 and telling him it is a vital link for older people to get their medical appointments.
"I would be happy to work with Mr Lochhead and the council to try to push his government for some support to keep this lifeline bus service going."
Mr Stewart stated he had been in contact with both Highland Council’s chief executive Roddy Burns and with Deveron’s owner Abby Milne.
He said: "Mr Burns told me that his council cannot feasibly support bus services, and a decision to that effect was taken in 2013.
"Meanwhile, Milne stated how much he will regret having to stop running the bus when funding runs out next month.
"If there was funding available he said he would be delighted to keep the bus running."
The 340 has been supported by Scotia Homes and Robertson Homes as a developer commitment to the area until the road linking the Hamilton Gardens development with Covesea is complete.
That road will be accessible to traffic by September 7, at which point the service will cease.