Page last updated at 12:24 GMT, Saturday, 14 March 2009

Council makes post bus cost claim

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Royal Mail plan to cease services after 16 April

An increase in subsidies requested by Royal Mail to keep remote post buses on the road could have been met, Highland Council has revealed.

Royal Mail plans to stop operating five services - two in the far north and three in the west Highlands - in April.

A council officer said Highland was denied the chance to discuss the move "in any meaningful way".

He said it was likely the council would have agreed to pay the extra subsidy asked for the two northern services.

Royal Mail has previously said it was first and foremost a postal operator, not a transport company, and its first priority was the collection and delivery of mail.

Cease operation

Low numbers of passengers, lack of funding and smaller amounts of mail carried on the buses have been cited as reasons for the ending of the services.

Those affected are Diabaig-Achnasheen, Applecross-Torridon and Torridon-Strathcarron in Wester Ross and also the far north routes of Thurso-Tongue and Bettyhill-Thurso.

A report to Thursday's transport, environment and community services committee, shows Highland Council paid a total subsidy of 12,871 for the five services.

Royal Mail had requested 35,300 - an increase of 22,429 - to cover 2009-10, but now plans to stop running the buses from 16 April.

The council transport officer said the authority would have tried to meet the costs of the far north routes, at least for an the interim period, and added that the Wester Ross services were also deemed important to communities.

There are no other public bus services between Diabeg-Torridon and Bettyhill-Thurso at the moment.

Councillors will be asked to consider how to replace the five post bus routes if they cease operation.

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