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Moray villages start own transport service


By Alistair Whitfield

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Faced with journeys of up to four hours to see a doctor a group of Moray residents are starting their own minibus service.

Jim Patterson by the minibus. It's planned to use this to transport villagers to the health centre in Lossiemouth.
Jim Patterson by the minibus. It's planned to use this to transport villagers to the health centre in Lossiemouth.

At the start of the Covid pandemic the Moray Coastal practice closed its GP surgeries in Hopeman and Burghead.

This was due to difficulties in making the buildings comply with social distancing requirements.

But the upshot is that people living along the coast who need to see a doctor must now get to Lossiemouth.

From Burghead that's a journey of only nine miles.

However by public transport takes at least four hours.

In response, residents have got together to launch the new transport initiative.

Hopeman resident Carmen Gillies said: "We plan to start with the Hopeman minibus and make it available for people from all coastal communities who need to get to appointments at the health centre in Lossiemouth.

"The minibus will also be available for groups, schoolchildren, and clubs to hire.

"We plan to expand into a community ride sharing scheme, and perhaps other transport – electric bike hire perhaps.

"We want to make it possible for people from coastal communities to travel for leisure and necessities along the coast."

Cummingston resident Jim Patterson said Burghead and Cummingston Community Council has pushed for coastal transport before, but with no result.

He said: "Public transport along the coast from Forres to Lossiemouth is non-existent.

"This leaves communities like Burghead, Cummingston, Hopeman, and Duffus in a difficult position.

"Anyone who doesn’t have transport can only look for jobs in Elgin, as there are no buses to Forres or Lossiemouth.

"There is also no transport to bring children back from after-school activities in Lossiemouth High School, and no transport for tourists or locals who wish to walk the coastal path.

"Now, at the present time, the situation is even more serious.

"There is no timescale for reopening the surgeries.

"And while there is a phone and video consulting system, that will not meet all needs."

Rosemary Davidson from Burghead highlighted one recent incident to show the importance of the issue.

She said: "We have an elderly friend who went by bus to Lossiemouth to the surgery and it took her nearly the whole day.

"With restrictions she did not like to ask for a lift with anyone in a car.

"She was exhausted by the time she got home.

"Our concern is that people who need to go to the doctor are not going, or delaying.

"This has long term health implications of course, and will result in more emergencies."

An online AGM for the new initiative will be held on Tuesday at 7pm.

Anyone interested in being a driver or joining the committee to run the minibus and expand community transport further, should contact Gill Bird of tsiMORAY.

Email Gill@tsimoray.org.uk and phone 07935 755234.

Everyone is welcome to get involved and it's hoped a range of communities will be represented, from Roseisle, through Burghead, Cummingston, Hopeman, to Duffus, and to Spynie.

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