A PUBLIC meeting calling for better bus services in Renfrewshire is set to take place next week.

The Better Buses Campaign will be holding the event at Johnstone Town Hall on Wednesday, September 13, starting from 7pm.

The meeting, which has been organised by the Renfrewshire Labour Party, has been called as part of a planned series of public events across the area.

Organisers said next week's meeting was being held in response to a "significant" reduction in bus services and increased fares by transport operator McGill's.

Councillor Chris Gilmour, transport spokesperson for Renfrewshire Labour, told The Gazette: "Renfrewshire residents have been living with the fallout from a substantial reduction in bus services. 

"13 per cent of services have been cut, and the effects of these cuts continue to be felt by hospital patients, students, shift workers, pensioners and shoppers who have struggled to adjust travel arrangements in an attempt at maintaining their essential travel needs. 

"Many local bus services have been cut entirely, reduced in frequency, no longer run in the evening or offer a decent weekend service.

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"We must find another model for the bus transportation system that works for passengers, the current model is broken. 

"It's Scottish Government policy to encourage people to ditch their cars and use public transport. But how can we reduce car usage when our public transport system isn’t fit for purpose? 

"It's time for change, bus services must be run to meet the needs of the public. We don't accept that the double whammy of more expensive but less reliable, fewer buses is good enough."

Councillor Alison Ann-Dowling, deputy leader of Renfrewshire Labour, added: "We welcome everyone with an interest in local public transport to the Better Buses Campaign Johnstone Town Hall meeting.

"You'll be able to register your interest to join a Better Buses Steering Group, you can have your say on bus cuts and timetable changes and keynote speakers will address the problems that need to be fixed to restore a decent local public bus service. 

"If you can't make the meeting, you can sign the petition to save our buses at BetterBusesRenfrewshire.co.uk."

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Ralph Roberts, CEO of McGill’s Group, said: "The issue of public transport and bus services ultimately comes down to funding and we wish Labour well in their quest for the money that will be required to fund their grand plan. 

"The reality of service provision in and around Paisley is that the town is exceptionally well served by buses, even with the recent reduction.  

"Three times the number of buses serve Paisley compared to East Kilbride, a town with a comparable population size. Seventy per cent of the buses used in the town are brand new, electric zero-emission buses – probably a higher percentage than any other town in the UK due to the massive investment that McGill’s has put in. 

"There are currently more departures from Paisley town centre each day than there are from Buchanan Street bus station in Glasgow. 

"We recognise that there have been service cuts but this also coincides with 15% fewer passenger journeys since the pandemic. That is also coupled with higher costs on every front - fuel, vehicles and wages.

"We are also impacted by car congestion with a failure by local authorities and their councillors, including Renfrewshire’s, to prioritise bus travel on our roads and attract more people to leave their car keys at home.    

"It may be that Renfrewshire Labour are full of hot air but if they have found a magic money tree then we look forward to seeing the results of that soon."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We are absolutely committed, in partnership with operators and local authorities, to ensuring that everyone has affordable and accessible public transport regardless of where they live.

"A broad package of long-term investment in bus, including through the Network Support Grant, Community Bus Fund, and for bus priority infrastructure, has been introduced, alongside an enhanced suite of options for local transport authorities to improve bus services according to their local needs, including formal partnerships, franchising and running their own bus services.

"We would encourage bus operators and local authorities to collaborate on service provision to minimise any adverse impacts on passengers. However we do recognise the problems caused by driver shortages, and have been working with bus operators, local government representatives, and other key industry stakeholders through the Bus Taskforce to assist in addressing these challenges - while recognising many of the levers are reserved to the UK Government."