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More routes on this summer’s Heather Hopper service

11th May 2009

The Cairngorms National Park Heather Hopper bus service is to run on an even bigger network this summer.

Co-funded by the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) with the Aberdeenshire and Highland Councils, additional services will be offered by Stagecoach in 2009.

The Heather Hopper, which began operating on Monday (May 11), will continue until September 26, with most services operating seven days a week. The 504 will run Newtonmore-Kingussie-Aviemore-Grantown-Tomintoul-Aberlour-Dufftown, connecting to the 501 Tomintoul-Strathdon-Ballater.

In Ballater, the 501 Heather Hopper connects with Stagecoach Service 201 to/from Aberdeen and Braemar. The 502/3 Heather Hopper operates Ballater-Aboyne-Banchory-Aberdeen and Ballater-Braemar-Glenshee, then to Aberfeldy via Pitlochry or to Perth via Blairgowrie.

John Thorne, Economic Development Officer with the CNPA, said: “It’s great to have the new services in place, making it easier for visitors and residents to travel around this Summer without a car. We need to build on the success of the Heather Hopper this year, getting as many people as possible to travel.”

The new services mean travellers can spend up to four hours in Grantown or Ballater, or passengers from Grantown can spend time shopping in Elgin. The Park Authority is working with the Cairngorms Hostels group to market the services to visitors.

Bob Edwards, Rural & Community Transport Officer at The Highland Council, said: “The Heather Hopper has operated as a through service to Ballater in previous years. The changes to the service this year have opened up a number of new travel opportunities to different attractions for both residents and tourists and will hopefully generate increased passenger numbers on the service.”

Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee Chairman and CNPA board member Peter Argyle said he was delighted that an additional return journey had been provided between Ballater and Tomintoul on the 501 and that the Heather Hopper network as a whole had been expanded.

He added: “I am also pleased that Stagecoach have decided to operate the 502/503 for a fourth consecutive year. The enhanced services will help to further link up rural communities and build on the successes already achieved in delivering increased mobility and all the benefits that brings in and around the National Park.”

Bryony Chamberlain, Managing Director, Stagecoach Bluebird and the Highlands said: “The Heather Hopper services have been well received over the past few years , but we hope that with even better connections in 2009 we can attract more locals and tourists to the Cairngorms this year.

“Stagecoach operates a range of services throughout the Highlands, Aberdeenshire, Moray and Perthshire so there are plenty of opportunities to get out and about without the car this summer.”

Ian Bishop, Chairman of Cairngorms Hostels, was keen to stress how important the Heather Hopper was for the organisation’s customers.

He explained: “It provides our visitors with the opportunity to take day trips to nearby Glens and links the network of hostels across the Park. We are delighted to be working with the Park Authority to market the service through our website ”

The new timetables can be found in the 5th edition of the Cairngorms Explorer, out now across the Park, and online at the CNPA’s website, or by Googling ‘Cairngorms Explorer 2009’.

The Explorer contains non-car travel information within and to the Park, including all bus and train timetables. For 2009 it incorporates plenty of information on cheap things to do in the Park with ‘Cairngorms on a Shoestring’ advice. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has supplied details of Cairngorms National Nature Reserves (NNRs) and suggested what to see and do there.

Andy Rockall of SNH said: “We are very happy to work with CNPA to include information on the Cairngorms NNRs in the Cairngorms Explorer. We hope that this publication shows something of the magic of these special places and makes it easier for people to visit on public transport.”

Mr Thorne said that there would be a review of the CNPA’s transport policy over the Summer.

He explained: “Transport is a key part of the National Park Plan, but we must decide whether to continue projects such as the Heather Hopper, or discuss whether other actions would be more effective. If any members of the public would like to be involved, we’ll be holding meetings across the Park to gather their views. Anyone wanting more details can contact me at [email protected]