Customers on the Ullapool-Inverness coach route should again benefit from extra capacity following the extension to an agreement by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Scottish Citylink and the Highlands and Islands Regional Transport Partnership (HITRANS).
Scottish Citylink, which operates the service, deployed 48 additional coaches over the summer to cater for whenever bookings for the service exceeded the capacity more than 48 hours in advance of the departure time.
As the coach operator runs the service on a commercial basis without any public sector investment, it cannot guarantee that it can add in extra vehicles to the route with less than 48 hours' notice unless the level of demand covered the operational costs.
All parties agreed that it was not commercially viable for the operator to ensure that sufficient capacity could always be provided for anyone expecting to travel without a booking but that they would work together with the aim to ensure that this increased capacity service would be deployed wherever possible when passengers made an advance booking.
Scottish Citylink indicated that there was often variable demand on Sundays over the winter months with demand occasionally exceeding the main coach capacity. As a result, the agreement between the Comhairle, HITRANS and Scottish Citylink has now been extended to cover all Sundays up until the New Year. This will ensure that, if additional capacity is required and can feasibly be deployed at short notice, any operational losses incurred by Scottish Citylink would be underwritten by these two parties.
Councillor Uisdean Robertson, Chair of the Comhairle’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said, “We are very pleased to hear that our collaboration with Scottish Citylink and HITRANS over the summer months proved very successful in reducing the likelihood of passengers being stranded in either Inverness or Ullapool with Scottish Citylink deploying additional capacity on almost 50 occasions.
"We do however need to emphasise again that, for operational reasons, this additional capacity cannot in any way be completely guaranteed by the operator and there remains a very real imperative that all passengers should make every effort to book as far in advance as possible of when they intend to travel from either Inverness or Ullapool”.
Peter Knight, Operations Director at Scottish Citylink, said: “In trying to provide the best possible service to all passengers on the Ullapool to Inverness route we will continue to work with all parties to try and ensure that sufficient capacity can be deployed in time, however I would again urge all of our customers to help us achieve this by booking the service well in advance.
“Bookings can be made from the Scottish Citylink website by using your debit or credit card or by phone to our call centre on 0141-352-4444 (open 24 hours).”