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Buses are being drafted in to shuttle vital shopping and prescriptions to isolated communities during the coronavirus.
Argyll bus operator West Coast Motors has seen a dramatic fall in passenger numbers which has worsened since last week’s official lockdown.
With shops, schools and workplaces shut and the message to stay at home backed up with new police powers, regular bus users are staying away.
Bus bosses have had to rip-up regular timetables and temporarily ‘furlough’ a number of drivers, but have kept some ‘key routes’ going and are now in talks about how the company’s fleet and drivers can help the area.
And in a double whammy for vital services, tourists are no longer coming to the area which has forced a radical rethink of the service model.
West Coast Motors confirmed this week it has been working with stakeholders such as local councillors to try to develop new ideas.
A company spokeswoman said it was working with Argyll and Bute Council to provide a service to those who most need it.
Talks are ongoing and she said there was a need to ensure that any idea closely observed safe social distancing and coronavirus preventative measures. Hand sanitisers have been put on buses and face masks made available to drivers.
She added: ‘On Friday, March 27, we announced free bus travel for all NHS workers. This is available by presenting a valid NHS card to our driver.
‘In some areas, such as Ardrishaig, we are working with local communities and offering a delivery service for those most vulnerable.
‘This is an area we expect to further develop as more people self-isolate and to reduce the growing pressure on local pharmacists and shops. We expect a more detailed coordinated plan will be agreed with the local council.
‘At this time, we would encourage community groups and local businesses to get in touch with our teams.’
Russell Dods, the Oban and Mull area manager, said on Friday the company was running a ‘very limited timetable’. It still had daily Monday-Saturday return services between Dalavich, Bonawe, Easdale, Appin and Barcaldine, as well as a limited town service, he said.
He added: ‘If there is anyone in these areas that are self isolating you could have someone put supplies on our vehicles and you could wait at your nearest bus stop for it to be dropped off. Please remember anyone putting anything on the bus should keep their distance.’
Contacts for the various areas in the region are:
Campbeltown Clare Little, email@example.com
Ardrishaig Robert Mackay, firstname.lastname@example.org
Oban Russell Dods email@example.com
Mull Adrian Fitness, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dunoon Graham Bryce, email@example.com
Bute Jamie McGuigan, firstname.lastname@example.org
The spokeswoman added that bus times had been amended with information available on the website – www.westcoastmotors.co.uk