THE PARENT of an Inverkeilor pupil who attends Montrose Academy has alleged a litany of complaints against the much vaunted Stagecoach Bluebird X7 Aberdeen to Dundee service.
The scheduled bus picks up his son and another seven or eight teenagers in the village and takes them to school, then brings them back at night.
But Mr Heath Bisset, Keilor Way, says the bus is often late and sometimes does not appear at all. He also claims that on one occasion after the bus stopped in the village the driver saw that one of the children was holding a £10 note and closed the doors and drove off, leaving the youngsters stranded.
He alleges that the problems affect the service in both directions and there are times when his son does not get home until after 5.30 p.m.
Another claim is that drivers have consistently denied knowledge of a ‘Dayrider’ ticket which gives unlimited travel during any given day, and which would be ideal for his son as he often goes back to Montrose in the evenings to meet his friends. He, therefore, has to pay again at night.
Mr Bisset claims that the problems started when Angus Council education department changed the provider of the school bus service from a Dundee company, which stopped in the village, to another which stops at Braehead of Lunan, some two miles away.
He commented: “Because of this, my son and his friends who attend Montrose Academy have to rely on the public transport service, specifically the X7 which should come through the village at 8.30 a.m.”
A further complaint is that after communicating his concerns to the bus company and being promised a response, he never hears anything back.
A spokeswoman for Stagecoach Bluebird said: “Many schoolchildren take advantage of the X7 route to travel from Inverkeilor to Montrose.
“Our drivers are trained to give the best value fare to each customer. In this case it is cheaper for school children to purchase a period return than a Dayrider ticket to make their return journey to school. Customers do not need to worry about carrying the correct money as all our drivers carry change.
“Ongoing route monitoring shows the X7 departing Dundee at 7.40 a.m. Monday to Friday has been a reliable and on-time service. Should any customer feel they have an issue with their journey they should take note of the location, date and time they experience an issue and we will be happy to investigate further.” A spokesperson for Angus Council commented: “In Angus all primary pupils who attend their catchment school, and who live at least two miles from school, are entitled to free home to school transport. All secondary pupils who attend their catchment school, and who live at least three miles from school, are similarly entitled.
“A number of children from Inverkeilor are not attending their designated school in Arbroath but are by parental choice attending Montrose Academy. This places responsibility on parents to get their child to and from school.
“Prior to August, 2011, children from Inverkeilor attending Montrose Academy on a parental choice basis were able to travel on the school contract bus which was passing en route to its first pick-up and had available seating capacity. They used this school service in preference to the local bus service (Service 39) which was also available.
“The school conveyance contract was re-tendered and a new operator was awarded the contract from August, 2011. At around the same time commercial service changes were made by Stagecoach Strathtay on the corridor with the introduction of a new X7 express service which initially did not serve Inverkeilor.
“Following representations from the council, the company reinstated that stop after a few weeks and any children travelling on a parental choice basis can now access the X7 at the Chance Inn, Inverkeilor, at 8.26 a.m. arriving at Montrose at 8.38 a.m. For a return journey, Service 30 is available at 4.05 p.m. from Montrose arriving at Inverkeilor at 4.18. This provides a suitable option for the children concerned.
“The school contract does not pass Inverkeilor any longer and has insufficient seating capacity – to provide this would incur additional costs to the council which cannot be justified when there is a suitable alternative.”