West Lothian Council has approved a funding package worth nearly £400,000 per year to ensure that the 31 bus service continues.
The revised service will also now serve the village of Bridgend from Monday, September 30. The 31 provides the only direct link from the Bathgate and Livingston areas to Torphichen, Philpstoun and Linlithgow.
The route is fully subsided by West Lothian Council. E&M Horsburgh, who operate the 31 service for the council, have cancelled their contract for the entire 31 service which will be effective from 28 September.
Council officers have been looking at the options available and presented their findings and recommendations to the council last week. The Council Executive has agreed to award the new contract to SD Travel.
Executive councillor for Development and Transport, Cathy Muldoon, said: “We’re delighted to be able to provide a solution that will enhance the service in Bridgend and continue to serve areas within Bathgate, Livingston, Torphichen, Philpstoun and Linlithgow.
“The fact that the 31 is the only route within some of these villages highlights its importance and a lot of work has gone into looking at the best option available within the limited funding that we have available to us.
“Bus services often change and we’re satisfied that this option provides the best overall solution for those that use the service.
“Whilst Wester Inch will no longer be served by the 31 bus, there are other various alternative bus services in operation for those travelling to and from Wester Inch which will minimize the impact in that area.”
The new contract will shorten overall journey times for passengers but will result in a some changes to the service from Monday 30 September.
These changes include Wester Inch being omitted from the route. Less than nine per cent of passenger journeys were taken to or from the Wester Inch area, so the impact on passengers should be reduced. Furthermore, Wester Inch has seen an improvement to overall bus services since Lothian Country introduced the 287 service last year. The subsided 5A/B service also continues to operate through the village, with three buses per hour.
Removing Wester Inch creates an opportunity to serve Bridgend in the revised 31 service route. Bridgend currently has a limited service following recent changes to the First Bus operated 38 service and the new 31 service will enhance bus services in the village.
The 31 service is operated over two separate subsidized contracts. One for an hourly service Monday – Saturday and one for a two hourly service on a Sunday. The Sunday service will continue to be operated by E&M Horsburgh after the 28 September. It is recognized that in order to maintain consistency for passengers across the two contracts any changes made to the Monday- Saturday service should be replicated in the Sunday service. All other parts of the route will remain the same.