RESIDENTS in parts of Ayr have hit out at the "inadequate" bus service in their neighbourhoods, claiming they are affecting workers, schoolchildren, the elderly and disabled - and accusing the firm which operates the route of putting "profit over people".

More than 700 people have signed a petition calling on operators Stagecoach West Scotland to increase the frequency of the route 1 Masonhill to Hayhill bus service.

Before the pandemic buses on the route ran twice an hour - but Stagecoach cut the timetable to an hourly frequency to account for reduced demand during the pandemic.

However, the firm has so far refused to reinstate the pre-Covid timetable.

Labour group leader Councillor Brian McGinley met residents at Orchard House sheltered housing to receive the petition, which had been signed by people across the area.

Residents explained their issues with the hourly service.

One said: "The change to the no 1 Hillfoot Road-Hayhill bus service has had a huge impact on the residents in both the above areas. The hourly service has been tried in these areas before and does not fit the needs of the community.

"An hourly service isn’t adequate. It negatively affects workers, school children,
students, elderly and disabled. A GP appointment, hospital appointment, getting to and from work/school/college, etc., all under the restrictions of one bus an hour is a huge problem for people.

"We can honestly and truly be away for hours and most of it as a result of waiting for buses."

It is not an isolated issue, building on the loss of other services in the community, said residents.

"They have already taken away the post office from our area, which is still very much missed by some of our residents. This is a big thing as they now have to wait an hour for a bus home.

"We do not have a GP surgery in our areas. It is a matter of having to go to town.

"Some people often require another bus when in town to go to some GPs, who are not in the town centre area. There are also a number of clinics which run at North Ayr Health Centre... again a two bus job."

The No 1 bus route serves Kyle Academy, Forehill Primary, St Johns Primary (for children who fall just outside of the catchment area), Holmston Primary, Wallacetown Nursery, Ayr Academy, UWS, Ayr College.

One resident said that they felt the matter was a health and safety issue, saying that some residents are not fit to be sitting or hanging about the town for an hour waiting for the next bus because they missed the one before.

"The people from the Hayhill side of this No 1 service have the same problems as we have," they said.

"In our opinion it’s wrong, and we feel quite discriminated against with regards to the whole thing.

"To stand at a bus stop for nearly an hour and watch three buses from
another area pass half empty is, in our opinion, wrong and truly soul destroying.
"They are putting profit before people."

One resident of Orchard House, Gillian Connor, pointed out that the problem didn't only affect those with 'visible' difficulties.

She said: "I just wanted to add an important point that all residents of Sheltered Housing are not necessarily elderly or visibly disabled. My situation is perhaps uncommon. I unfortunately suffer from two 'invisible' disabilities; Fibromyalgia and Psoriatic Arthritis which can affect my mobility and care.

"I previously lived in the Forehill area for 17 years and moved into Orchard House seven weeks ago.

"The lack of bus service personally affects me hugely, and I find I am having to use taxis for doctors, physiotherapy and hospital appointments as the bus service is not regular enough to schedule ongoing connections or appointment times.

"This is obviously a drain on finances at a time when the cost of living is increasing daily and could be avoided as I have a disabled bus pass.

"As I am a bit 'younger' it also affects me socially - going into town to meet friends, shopping etc - things which alleviate any feelings of isolation but also are positive for my mental well-being."

Councillor McGinley said: "First, I would like to thank the Forehill Community Council for helping to organise the petition to let people know about the problems that these bus cuts are causing to ordinary folk trying to go about their daily business. 

"These are public services that are meant to meet people's transport needs and too often the people are being let down with poor, late and decreasing services.

"They seem to be ever increasingly subject to business decisions which are little to do with the people they serve.

"The 700 signatories and more are angry, frustrated and disappointed as the testimonies tell.

"I have accepted the petition from the residents, I will raise this matter directly with the chief executive of the council to determine what can be done to help the situation.

"I will also advise Stagecoach, the licence holder, of the impact that these cuts are having on our communities and will ask for these lifeline bus services to be reinstated."

A spokesperson for Stagecoach West Scotland said: "The introduction of an hourly timetable on Service 1 between Masonhill, Hayhill and Ayr reflects the level of passenger demand on this service and will allow us to operate the service punctually. 

"Passenger numbers on this service and across our network continue to be significantly below pre-pandemic levels, with many people changing their working and travel patterns. 

"To ensure we can operate in a sustainable manner we need to use our resources in a manner that best reflects the travel patterns of our customers."