Ullapool is a remote and rural community and therefore transport is a very important as it enables people to access vital services in places such as Inverness. Public transport services are also vital as a significant proportion of residents, particularly in the village itself, do not own a car and require to uses buses to travel.
Due to the critical importance of transport it selected as a key area of focus for UCT as part of Community Powerdown. A transport focus group of local people was established to build on a Community Transport Needs Assessment and Feasibility Study that was commissioned by Lochbroom Community Council in 2005 and funded by the Community Transport Association and Ross and Cromarty Enterprise. The report outlined the issues faced by local people in terms of public transport provision and some of the potential solutions and opportunities.
The first step taken under Powerdown was to carry out a Transport questionnaire in 2010 which identified community support for the establishment of a local transport service and the improvement of services to Inverness and Dingwall. This view was further enforced by the Community Survey which demonstrates public transport provision continues to be one of the most pressing local concerns with a local bus service a widely supported development.
Through focus group meetings and further discussions with the local residents the Trust was able to identify one key area of concern, the daily Stagecoach 61 route from Ullapool to Inverness. Complaints focused on the standard and layout of the vehicle as well as the reliability of the service. To determine the extent of the problem UCT asked local bus users to write in with complaints regarding the service which were logged and then passed onto the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland. UCT also lobbied the Traffic Commissioner and attended public enquiries into Highland Stagecoach services in Inverness. This led to publicity in the local press and a very short period monitoring of the service which found that it ran to time in the majority of cases.
Despite this set back the Trust’s Transport sub-group has continued to lobby local Councillors, Highland Council and operators for improvements to the services including the Stagecoach 61, as well as working with Lochbroom Community Council to lobby for improvements to the provision of bus timetable information within the village.