A RADICAL shake-up of Inverness bus timetables could impact the local housing market, it has been warned.
A retired couple are furious that the number seven Stagecoach service could be withdrawn as part of the process, having just bought their dream home in the Lochardil area of the city.
They say they would have backed out of the deal if they had known sooner – and other people are expected to be considering public transport options when looking to buy property.
The company is currently wading through the weighty feedback to an extensive public consultation on its timetable revamp.
A question mark hanging over the number seven service had already prompted an online protest from regular customers.
A spokesman for the Highland Senior Citizens Network (HSCN) said residents’ concerns raised serious questions about the future of popular areas of the city where older people are often dependent on buses.
Estate agents have acknowledged the importance of public transport, especially to older people, and are monitoring the situation.
Hamish and Catherine Feggans are preparing to move from rented accommodation in Broom Drive to a property they have bought in Balnakyle Road.
Mr Feggans (78), a former customs and excise officer, said: "We’d certainly not have put in an offer for a house in Lochardil if knowing the bus service was being withdrawn because we’re getting to the age where it’s going to become a necessity in the near future."
Mrs Feggans (65), a former Open University tutor and counsellor, suggested Stagecoach’s focus should be on an option to reduce the regularity of off-peak services while retaining viable, peak-time services.
She said: "I’m disappointed in their management of the situation.
"We wouldn’t have considered going to an area that didn’t have a bus service. When we learned this, our first thought was ‘can we back out of the sale?’"
HSCN chairman Ian McNamara said: "It begs the question as to how popular areas, ideal for non-drivers and retired folk, will be in the future if they don’t have easy access to a bus route.
"I know the couple and they would have been very thorough in their research for a property to meet their present needs and future needs."
Local Liberal Democrat councillor Alasdair Christie said: "I’ve had many representations and discussions with people in Lochardil who are feeling totally isolated and excluded by Stagecoach over the proposal to withdraw the number seven bus.
"They feel it could have been better publicised and they feel the consultation has been weak by Stagecoach.
"I can empathise with the couple when a consideration was the infrastructure of public transport. More needs to be done so that it’s not so easy for bus companies, almost at the drop of 90 days, to change or give notice about a substantive alteration to service."
Sarah Woodcock, manager of the Highland Solicitors Property Centre, said: "It’s something that, for certain buyers, is a relevant consideration – how good is the provision?
"For people maybe retiring and not driving any more, or people without their own transport, when they are making a move within or to the city, this is something they will look at.
"Decent transport provision is desirable because it does support house sales."
Echoing that, John Bound, a partner at Galbraith’s Inverness branch, said: "Logic would say this is something people will consider and it may have an effect going forward."
The proposed changes are due to take effect in April.
"Regrettably," according to Stagecoach, it is proposed that service seven, that currently operates between Inverness City and Lochardil, will be withdrawn on April 14, due to lack of demand.
Other services will see minor timing revisions to reflect current journey times.
For more, visit www.stagecoachbus.com/promos-and-offers/north-scotland/highland-timetable-consultation