Countryside-in-crisis-banne

BBC misses the last bus

The BBC on their Breakfast news programme this morning are reporting the sad demise of 5 out of 7 Royal Mail post bus routes in the Highlands. They are late in featuring this story as the local media in the Highlands were highlighting this over a month ago.

Yet the BBC are running the story with the strapline, “Could this be the last post bus for the Highlands?” That suggests there is hope of a reprieve, but the service ceases as of today. There is no hope of these vital rural services being saved, Royal Mail even refused to enter discussions with Highland Council to subsidise the service. Royal Mail bureaucrats in London made the decision, sneaked out the announcement, left little time for consultation and have gone ahead with their plans. And they are meant to be providing a public service. Once the post bus has been axed from these remote communities it’s a simple step to the removal of door-to-door delivery as well. 

 

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Through the Torridon mountains

This was a seemingly innocuous route on the map but was to prove a long and tiring day. The title should more accurately be, “Round the front of Beinn Alligin and Beinn Dearg before going round the back of Beinn Eighe having followed the full length of Liathach.” Although accurate such a title is unnecessarily cumbersome.

I joined the other members of the hillwalking club at Torridon Youth Hostel, where they were based, for the first of their away weekends this year. The mountain forecast included gale force winds and snow blizzards so I opted for the lower level walk rather than attempt the Horns of Alligin with the more overoptimistic members. This may have been a low level walk but it certainly wasn’t a level one. As we headed out on the National Trust path up Coire Mhic Nobuil, I was lulled into a false sense of an easy day ahead. Having crossed the river, the path soon deteriorated to the rough, roller coaster like path that is normally encountered in the Highlands. Even so, we still made speedy progress to Loch Grobeig where we departed the path to head across open hillside to the path skirting Beinn Eighe. With the cloud base so low we were unable to enjoy views of the magnificent mountains around us.

 Track-Torridon

Tramping through wet, soft snow took us alongside the crashing waterfalls given fresh impetus by the torrent of water falling from the skies, before a sharp rise into the flat-bottomed Coire Mhic Fhearchair. This imposing mountain amphitheatre provided no protection as the wind funnelled driving rain in through its North-West mouth. Somewhere in the cloud the Triple Buttress loomed down upon us, we could only guess at its grandeur but could still feel its rocky menace lurking unseen.

Triple Buttresses of Beinn Eighe, ScotlandBy now, with sheets of water draining off the mountainside, we realised that crossing the river on our return would be nearly impossible. Sure enough our way across was blocked by a heaving mass of water ready to knock any foolish walker, trying to ford it, from their feet. At the end of a long day your heart sinks at such an obstacle and the prospect of a long diversion, or even having to retrace your footsteps. Will weary legs carry you further than originally intended? Fortunately by following the east bank of the river, although boggy for much of the way, eventually led tired bodies to a rough path down to the Glen Torridon road and a short walk to our shuttle cars. A long sodden day but one with a great sense of achievement even though no mountain top was conquered. Reports from the hostel told us that the hardy low-level walkers had in fact climbed higher than those that had headed to Beinn Alligin.

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Highland Post Buses Axed

Another lifeline service for rural communities in the Highlands will disappear in April as Royal Mail axes five post bus routes serving some of the remotest areas in the country. Areas such as Applecross, Torridon and Tongue will be hardest hit by the cost-cutting exercise where no real alternative public transport links exist.

Torridon village seen from Loch Torridon shore...

Although only just over 3000 journeys were made along these routes last year, this would suggest that they were well used by the small, scattered communities. Yet Royal Mail has decided to save just £12,871 a year by cutting the five routes, even though they seem to have made no effort to seek subsidy from the Highland

Council.

Royal Mail will still need to drive along these routes in normal post vans so why the need to cut such an important service that will save so little. If they need to make savings then they should perhaps look at the remuneration of their superannuated  Chief Executive, Adam Crozier.

There must be enormous potential for services like these amongst the walking fraternity. For example, the Achnasheen to Diabeg service runs through the heart of Torridon and could easily provide drop-off points for walkers wanting to undertake walks on many of the mountains in that area. Yet, there is no publicity of the service locally or within the walking community. You have to search hard on the Royal Mail website to find any mention of post buses. Just a little bit of marketing could mean additional use, allowing the service to continue for the benefit of both walkers and local communities.

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