Published: 30/11/2017 19:00 - Updated: 29/11/2017 16:37

Black Isle residents fear for their lives at notorious A9 bus stop

Written byHector Mackenzie

Culbokie bus
Local campaigners have previously raised concerns over the bus service at Culbokie.

A SPATE of crashes close to a notorious A9 bus stop has left commuters fearing for their lives.

Earlier this month, a car ploughed into a give way sign at the spot where passengers have to scramble up a grassy embankment – sometimes in darkness – to reach the stop.

The inconvenience follows a switch of provider – and gap in services for Culbokie residents.

Culbokie Action Group hopes to reinstate the Inverness link that was terminated after a retendering exercise for council-subsidised buses to the village led to Stagecoach losing the franchise in April. The contract was won by Inverness-based D&E Coaches and Stagecoach chose not to run commercial services through the village.

Culbokie residents now have to catch a connecting D&E-operated bus – or walk two miles to Duncanston crossroads on the A9 where they have to flag down a passing bus to Inverness.

Complaints had reportedly been lodged in a previous passenger consultation by customers travelling from further afield about "delays" due to a daily Culbokie detour.

Local commuters now have to clamber up a grassy hill to reach a makeshift bus stop at the Duncanston junction.

The latest accident happened on a bend where passengers walk between the B9169 Culbokie road and the A9.

Regular commuter Alison Lowe said: "I’m very concerned. It was at least the third, possibly fourth, accident in two years. We’re walking from just before that point on the verge, round onto the slip-road and up the hill to reach the bus stop – often in darkness in the winter months.

"An accident could happen at any time. I know of another passenger who saw another incident where a car slipped off the road onto that verge."

Echoing that, Ferintosh Community Council chairman Colin Lawrence said: "I think lives are at risk in poor conditions, in the dark, crossing the A9 and waiting on a verge by it with no lighting.

"There was a near miss on the junction a few days ago and an accident which knocked the car up onto the verge where people would either have been walking or waiting had it coincided with a bus."

SNP MSP Kate Forbes, who recently joined early morning commuters on the journey from Culbokie, said: "I know just how precarious it can be changing buses at the verge of a very busy road. This has only got worse with the darker nights and colder days.

"The need for a commuter service grows stronger by the day as the nights close in.

"I’m saddened and concerned to hear of the accidents near the junction. I think it demonstrates why it’s not right to have people waiting at the side of the road there to get a bus."

A Ferintosh Community Council meeting last week heard that a community transport solution to the missing bus link had been ruled out as "unviable".

The road safety issue has featured prominently in local debate. The lack of provision for disabled people needed access to buses is of equal concern.

Councillors agreed to maintain the community’s lobbying of Stagecoach and to press local politicians for support.

Community councillors said Highland Council pledged in April that it would pursue trunk roads maintenance firm Bear to have a bus shelter installed. There is optimism that a shelter will be installed by next spring.

A spokesman for Stagecoach North Scotland said: "Culbokie was withdrawn from our network following the re-tendering of supported services by the Highland Council in April 2016. We would fully support the council improving footpaths to the bus stop and installing a bus shelter at Duncanston crossroads."

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