Highland Council launching in-house bus company
The Highland Council is making progress towards launching an in-house bus company on 4 January 2023.
The Council has invested in 12 buses, including six double-deckers, to deliver passenger and school transport services at a lower cost than commercial contractors. The other project, which is also part of the Council’s Business Change programme, is to carry out a review of school transport arrangements, including the procurement of specialist transport management software.
Following a recent re-tender process for school transport contracts, the decision was made in October for the council to trial delivering more in-house school transport routes using buses with ultra-low emission engines. Initially, routes covered will be across rural Inverness, the Black Isle, Loch-Ness-side and Nairn.
The Highland Council already runs in-house school transport and the pilot is expected to expand from this.
A Project team has been established for delivering the in-house services, with three Project Officers and a Bus Operations Supervisor appointed. Interviews for drivers are ongoing. Approval has been granted for lease of ground for an operational centre. The pilot bus services have been registered and approved by the Traffic Commissioner.
Officers intend to submit a bid next spring to Transport Scotland’s Scottish Zero Emission Bus Challenge Fund for the operation of electric buses.
“Our ambitious in-house bus company will mitigate some of the significant cost increases following the recent re-tendering of passenger and school transport contracts” – Chair of the Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Ken Gowans
Chair of the Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Ken Gowans, said: “Our ambitious in-house bus company will mitigate some of the significant cost increases following the recent re-tendering of passenger and school transport contracts. It will also allow us the flexibility for an improved and more inclusive service.
“The new service will be supported by specialist transport management software. This will not only help us streamline the expansion of our bus services, but it will ensure every possible efficiency saving is made.
“It was good to get the update today to confirm real progress is being made and I for one cannot wait to see the new buses out on the routes in January.”
The move comes as the region’s predominant operator, Stagecoach Highlands, has had to cut service levels.