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Postbus service may be under threat

Concerns have been raised that Royal Mail may be about to cut some of its postbus services in Sutherland.

Concerns have been raised that Royal Mail may be about to cut some of its postbus services in Sutherland.

Worried constituents have asked Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MSP Jamie Stone to look into the matter, says a report in the Northern Times.

There are four postbus routes in north and north-west Sutherland where passengers can travel with the mail from Drumbeg to Lochinver and on to Lairg.

A service is also available from Tongue to Talmine or from Tongue to Lairg. On the North Coast it links Tongue with Thurso and Bettyhill.

The postbus service receives a subsidiary from the Highland Council.

Mr Stone wrote to Highland Council chief executive Alistair Dodds: "Taking the Thurso to Tongue service as an example, the postbus enables people living in the Tongue area to access shops and other facilities in Thurso.

"It is also important in terms of tourism - a number of tourists use the postbus on a regular basis."

The MSP has asked for assurances that there was no plans to withdraw the service.

He added: "Should it be that the council needs additional Scottish Government finance to maintain services at their present levels, then I will be more than willing to raise the issue with Scottish ministers in Holyrood."

Tongue Community Council chairman Alan Mackay said: "We haven't been told officially that it is going to be withdrawn, only that they are carrying out a review of the services.

"It would certainly be a blow to the north coast if the postbus was to disappear, there's no question about that. At the present time you cannot get out of Melness by public transport."

A spokeswoman for Royal Mail explained that they were in discussions about the postbus route between Thurso and Tongue and also between Bettyhill and Tongue with Highland Council.

She said: "The routes have very low passenger numbers and the financial subsidy from the local authority does not make them financially viable.

"Royal Mail is first and foremost a postal operator, not a transport company, and our first priority is the collection and delivery of mail. The provision of public transport is not the responsibility of Royal Mail, but of the local transport authority, in this case Highland Council.

"Where possible Royal Mail is committed to providing postbus services alongside its core business of collecting and delivering the mail."

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