A TEMPORARY bus service was introduced in Clacks this week to replace the suspended X53 First Bus.

As reported previously in the Advertiser, First Bus confirmed the suspension of the X53 bus service due to staff shortages and low passenger usage.

The decision caused anger and disappointment in villages such as Muckhart, Dollar and Tillicoultry from residents who were in danger of being cut off.

However, Bay Travel introduced the 202 service on Monday, January 10, which will travel from Kinross to Tillicoultry and back, covering Hillfoots areas including Crook of Devon, Yetts O’ Muckhart, Pool of Muckhart and Dollar.

A First Bus 52 service will continue to run from Tillicoultry to Stirling and back.

The service will be available until the end of March, with Bay Travel using this time period to assess the usage of the service and plan for the future.

Iain Robertson, joint managing director of Bay Travel, said: “We are delighted to be able to work with Perth and Kinross and Clackmannanshire Councils and fill in a gap to provide a bus service for outlying communities who often rely on it.

“At this stage, it is a short-term arrangement to the end of March, but hopefully this will give us a chance to gauge the level of requirements and to see what we may be able to do for the longer term.”

Greens MSP Mark Ruskell praised the news but highlighted that the service will still exclude some commuters.

The Mid Scotland and Fife MSP said: “With just days to go before the cancellation of the X53, this temporary, partial replacement of the route will hopefully be of some comfort to communities who previously relied on the X53 service.

“However, by only serving a partial route and a limited off-peak timetable, the new 202 bus risks excluding commuters and students from the get-go, ironically just before the launch of free bus travel for under-22s on January 31.

“Communities like those living along the X53 route deserve more than sticking plaster solutions to fix rural bus services.

“We need to change the way these services are run to ensure rural communities are no longer left behind."

His views were echoed by Marion Robertson, a Green activist who lives in the Muckhart area.

She said: “While this trial off-peak service is welcome as an emergency stopgap, its timetabling does not provide for commuters, or school, college or university students.

“This is particularly frustrating as free bus travel for under-22s launches January 31.

“By effectively excluding student passengers & commuters on the route, data recorded during the trial will record far lower patronage than it should, seriously undermining decisions made on its future viability.

“I urge those involved to reassess the timetable for the sake of working people, students and the climate crisis.”

Visit tinyurl.com/mwsy339a to view the 202 service timetable.