Barnton’s elderly residents fight to keep number 64 bus

Nan Hastie and other members of the sheltered housing at Barnton are angry at the withdrawal of the number 64 service. Picture: Toby Williams

Nan Hastie and other members of the sheltered housing at Barnton are angry at the withdrawal of the number 64 service. Picture: Toby Williams

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ELDERLY residents of a sheltered housing block have launched a fight to keep a vital bus service which connects them with a shopping centre.

The number 64 E&M Horsburgh-run service, which stops at the Gyle, is set to be axed next month as part of a cost-cutting exercise by the city council.

We only have one bus which takes us to the shopping area at the Gyle. When this is withdrawn in June we feel we are losing a big part of our independence.

Agnes Hastie

The authority was spending £158,000 a year subsidising the link and says it can no longer justify the cost of continuing to support it.

But 36 residents living in the housing complex at Barnton Avenue West have all written letters begging the authority to reconsider their position, or else to re-route other services to pick them up.

Agnes Hastie, 90, a spokeswoman for the residents, said: “We only have one bus which takes us to the shopping area at the Gyle. When this is withdrawn in June we feel we are losing a big part of our independence. The government is trying to encourage elderly people to exercise. The 64 is the only bus to take us to the Gyle where we are able to walk about under cover. Many of us feel this bus is a lifeline.”

As a “compromise” the residents have suggested that some of the number 21 services through Davidson’s Mains could come via Whitehouse Road through to the Barnton Junction and then resume their usual route to the Gyle Centre.

“If the service can’t be saved surely something can be done to re-route other buses to pick up some of the people,” added Mrs Hastie.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, confirmed that the service would be withdrawn on June 5 following a review of services.

She said: “The council invests more than £1 million annually subsidising bus routes across the city, helping keep residents connected to services and amenities where the bus routes are not otherwise commercially viable.

“Due to budget pressures, we recently carried out a painstaking review of the relative costs and benefits of the services we support and agreed which routes should be subsidised, using an approved methodology.

“Service 64 scored poorly in this review and unfortunately we were therefore unable to justify the cost of continuing to support it.

“While this is understandably a disappointment for those who use the service to travel to and from the Gyle, we would emphasise that there is a much more frequent alternative option available via the 21 and 41.”

But Mary Macdonald, the sheltered housing manager, said the alternative services suggested by the city council were “unfeasible” for their residents and would involve them catching two buses.

She added: “This whole journey between the 41 and 21 would take at least 40 minutes but the 64, direct from Barnton, takes no longer than eight minutes.”

The service reported 36,078 passenger trips in 2015 at a total cost of £158,000 a year, which equates to a rough cost of almost £4.50 to the council for every trip.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com