EAST Renfrewshire residents are being invited to a "Better Buses Campaign" event this week.

The meeting, which has been organised as part of a series of events by the Renfrewshire Labour Party, is in response to a "significant reduction" in bus services and increased fares by McGill's.

It will take place at Johnstone Town Hall on Wednesday, September 13 at 7pm and will include speakers such as Neil Bibby MSP.

Councillor Alison Ann-Dowling said: “At my recent visit to Dunterlie Foodshare, it was clear that the removal of the 52 circular service in Dunterlie has severely impacted the area and people’s ability to travel to the services they need.

“Dunterlie Foodshare is joined each week by a range of partners, such as East Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau, Social Security Scotland, SP Energy Networks, Street League, ER Smoking Cessation and Work EastRen, so it’s essential that bus transport routes are available to help local people travel where they need to go.

“We’ve suffered a 13 per cent cut to bus services across the Renfrewshire region, many local bus services have been cut entirely, reduced in frequency, no longer run in the evening, or offer a decent weekend service.

“Our public transport system isn’t fit for purpose. A commercial bus operator like McGill’s only has to give the Traffic Commissioner 90 days’ notice of their plan to change or cut a bus route and don’t have to consult with the public beforehand.

“Bus services must be run to meet the needs of the public, not the interests of a private operator to generate more profit. I don’t accept that the double whammy of more expensive but less reliable, fewer buses is good enough.

“I welcome the new M7 Maidenhill bus service as part of a partnership between East Renfrewshire Council and Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, following a planning condition which was attached to the housing developers building in Maidenhill.

“The developers will fund the cost of the M7 bus service for three years, providing transport from new homes in Maidenhill to local services and other transport links.

“It’s an example of a community benefit that gives much needed travel options while we continue to fight for change at regional and national level.”

Cllr Ann-Dowling added: “The Scottish Parliament enacted legislation that enabled councils to run our public transport system differently.

“However, we’re still waiting for the necessary secondary legislation to be enacted and the Scottish Government hasn’t provided funds to support the wholesale change that’s needed.

“After a decade of cuts to council finances, it’s unacceptable to expect councils alone to solve the problem.”

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."