Family bus pass - money saving idea for islanders

Family bus passes are being considered by the Comhairle as a future initiative which could help island families save money
Family bus passes are being considered by the Comhairle as a future initiative which could help island families save money

AS the Comhairle try to appease public concerns over future service cuts during budget setting consultations, the local authority also explore ways in which it can help island families save money as members discuss a ‘Family Bus Pass’ which could save around £5 per family journey.

The Family Pass would be available during school-holidays, Saturdays, and where available, evenings and could offer one or two children to travel free with one or two adults.

If implemented, the proposed scheme could, for example, reduce a family’s return journey from Carloway to Stornoway from £16.20 to £10.80.

Although contracted bus services in Lewis and Harris will not be up for re-tendering until April 2014 (with Uist and Barra one year later), the council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee were this week updated on the money-saving proposal.

At present existing bus services contract conditions state that the Comhairle sets the maximum fares each bus operator can charge on the services.

It is suggested that a revision of the bus fare structure – and inclusion of a Family Pass – could increase both revenue and passenger numbers.

Councillor John Mackay, Chair of the authority’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee commented: “I quite agree that we should pilot this proposal and see if we can’t help save families coming into town some money.

“Living out in Ness, Carloway, Uig for example, it’s not cheap to take your car to and from town. If a family could save £5 on their weekly visit to the sports centre for example, that would be good and could help make a real difference.”

However, Mr Mackay indicated problems could arise should bus operators be reluctant to participate in any change, but remained positive adding: “It’s definitely worth piloting, if we can get one or two operators to agreed to pilot it.”

For one Caloway parent, with four children all aged under 17 years, a possible Family Bus Pass would not necessarily encourage bus usage.

Ms Boyd said: “It would be useful in terms of going into town if only one parent were available, but the bus timetable at present is not designed for convenience and the bus service quite limited.

“A scheme like this will only work if a good service is there in the first place.”

She added: “As a family we don’t just want to go into town, there’s not much to do there as a family. It would be more suitable for us if the service allowed us cheaper and easier travel to places of interest around the islands, which as a family we’d really enjoy.”