WIDE-RANGING changes have been made to Inverness bus services with the introduction of new routes, alteration of existing routes and some more frequent services.
The revisions came into force yesterday and affect all passengers.
New services include an hourly route between the city centre and the Highland Archive and Registration Centre and Inverness Aquadome and a new half-hourly route from Milton of Leys, via the new link road, to Wester Inshes, Drakies, Raigmore, the city centre and Dalneigh.
Buses will run every 15 minutes between Merkinch and the city centre, and every 10 minutes between Hilton and the city centre.
"These service revisions have enabled us to improve reliability across the whole network," explained Bryony Chamberlain, managing director of Stagecoach in the Highlands.
The company has made the changes as part of its annual review and in response to comments and complaints received from members of the public and its own service monitoring.
The company held what was described as a robust meeting with local councillors two months ago to discuss the changes.
Passengers have been complaining for some time about the infrequency of some buses, buses breaking down, running late or not turning up at all. At the time, councillors said Stagecoach had pledged to keep a close eye on the situation locally.
Inverness south councillor Roy Pederson cautiously welcomed the changes, adding the new Milton of Leys service was a boost for the area.
"I think it is a big improvement in the service and it provides better connection with key points in the city," he said. "It is an improvement, which would not have been possible without the new link road. We have got to wait and see how the changes work in practice and if there are issues with it, modifications will have to be made.
"It is a step in the right direction."
Councillor Alasdair Christie (Inverness West) has campaigned for a better bus service to the Aquadome and yesterday he said: "I certainly welcome the additional service to the Aquadome, the ice rink and the archive centre. This will increase access to these facilities and the services provided there."
However, the service will only run from 10am to 4pm and Mr Christie hopes Stagecoach will look at extending it so people who work normal working day hours can also use it.
Councillor Bet McAllister (Inverness Central) also welcomed the improvements, but said drivers were continuing to flout the weight restrictions on the Grant Street bridge by operating large buses on the route.
She has already reported the matter to Stagecoach and the police and is disappointed the restriction is still being ignored, despite reassurances from the bus company it would not happen. Heavy vehicles could cause damage to the utility cables which run underneath the bridge and South Kessock, Merkinch and parts of Dalneigh could be plunged into darkness if power cables are broken.
New timetables are due to be placed at bus stops and Stagecoach is looking at putting comment cards in buses in response to complaints from members of the public that contacting the company to complain was problematic.
A summary of the revisions and full timetable information is also available from Inverness Bus Station and online at www.stagecoachbus.com
? Meanwhile, Inverness train passengers travelling in June will be able to buy bus travel to and from the railway station, and around town, for just 1 a day, as a result of a promotion for PLUSBUS tickets a cheap bus pass bought with train tickets that gives rail passengers unlimited bus travel.
For further information, visit www.plusbus.info