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Councillor hops on the Heather Hopper

15th May 2007

The Heather Hopper made the first of its many journeys across the Cairngorms National Park on Monday when it made its annual summer return.

The service is the only bus linking different parts of the Park and it launched its 2007 timetable yesterday (Monday May 14th). The first passenger on the bus leaving from Grantown was Highland Councillor and Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) board member Stuart Black.

The service is being funded by the CNPA and Aberdeenshire and Highland Councils and both Stagecoach and Rapsons are operating the twice daily service which is running between Strathspey and Deeside from May to September.

The 501 service will see Rapsons buses run from Grantown-Tomintoul-Colnabalchin-Strathdon-Colnabalchin-Ballater, with Stagecoach operating in opposite direction.

A problem facing the Park’s residents and visitors is lack of public transport in rural areas. One of the Priorities for Action in the Cairngorms National Park Plan, which sets out the Park’s short and long term future, is to provide high quality opportunities for outdoor access, and where necessary improved public transport. The Heather Hopper will address this and allow the public the opportunity to get out and explore more of the Park on public transport. It will also help to tackle climate change as it will encourage people to leave their cars at home.

Councillor Stuart Black said: “It is important that we all work together to address the problem that residents and visitors have in accessing public transport in rural places.

“The Heather Hopper will allow more people the opportunity to get out and enjoy the Park. It is linking up different areas and also providing people with a more economic and environmentally friendly means of getting around.

“We hope people get out and use this service during the summer.”

John Thorne, the CNPA’s Economic Development Officer, said: “We are delighted that the Heather Hopper is operating for another year. This is something that will make a real difference to those living in and visiting the Park. It will mean more people can explore and enjoy the Park.

“We hope people will give us feedback on this service and let us know if it is something we should have on a longer term basis.”

The Heather Hopper was withdrawn in the 1990s, but was re-launched as a pilot scheme by the three partners last year. It proved popular and it was decided to run it again this year – over a longer period. Surveys will be carried out throughout the summer to decide whether the service should operate in future years.

The 501 service will run until September 29th seven days a week (on alternate days it will run to Strathdon). A commercial second service, the 502, will be launched later in summer by Stagecoach, running from June 30th to August 11th, six days a week. It will run between Banchory-Ballater-Braemar and Glenshee six days a week (starting and terminating between Pitlochry and Blairgowrie on alternate days).

Timetable information on the Heather Hopper 501 or Stagecoach 502 is available from the Cairngorms Explorer, also available online or from Highland Country Buses 01479 811 211 and Stagecoach 01224 212 266.