AN OVERHAUL of bus services is required to guarantee reliable, accessible and affordable services of passengers in Fife.

That's the view of Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell who wants operators to be penalised if they cut routes or fail to turn up on time.

The Fife politician introduced his Members Business Debate on ‘Transforming Local Bus Services’ on Wednesday when he called for council and community run bus services to be made a priority, with further investment in more routes for rural areas.

He also asked for more regulation and data tracking of operators, warning they should face having Government subsidies and funding withheld if they continue to cut services or for repeated failure to run a reliable timetable.

Mr Ruskell has repeatedly raised concerns about the state of Fife’s bus services, with passengers reporting the negative impact of Stagecoach’s timetable changes, service cancellations and a recent 15 per cent fare hike.

The region has also seen a number of commuter services to Edinburgh cut, forcing folk to choose car over bus.

Speaking after the debate, he said: “At the heart of our vision for better buses are a few central principles. Our buses must be reliable, they must be affordable, they must be accessible and run in the public interest.

“One of the most common inquiries I have from constituents in Fife about bus services is around timetable changes and fare hikes.

"Folks are finding it harder and harder to rely on buses to commute to work, head to school, or meet up with friends and family.

“Millions of pounds of Scottish Government money is also given to bus operators in grants and for concessions, but despite these vast sums, private bus operators Stagecoach have hiked fares and cut services.

“A review of all public subsidies for buses has already been agreed, to look at how increased conditionality on public funding could improve bus services.

"This must be applied to all Scottish Government funding for private bus operators to prevent profiteering, fare hikes, and cancellations."

Mr Ruskell said system change was needed to ensure Scotland’s buses are run for people and not profit.

"It’s time for Fife Council to explore the tools within the Transport Act 2019 that empower them to run their own services that meet the needs of their communities," he added.

“Politicians, people across our local and national governments, our communities, organisations, and passengers need to back our buses and deliver the transformation in local bus networks people in Fifers want and deserve.”