VITAL bus services linking the Garnock Valley with Glasgow that were set to be scrapped next month appear to have been saved following crisis talks with politicians and transport bosses.

Stagecoach West Scotland announced earlier this month that the X34 and X36 routes serving parts of North Ayrshire and the city centre would be axed from July 17, prompting widespread dismay among commuters who regularly use the buses.

A petition set up in the wake of the shock decision has been signed by more than 5,000 people so far, while public meetings have been organised by community councils in Beith and Dalry to discuss the potential impact of the move on residents.

Ahead of a gathering scheduled to take place tonight (Tuesday) at Beith Community Centre, Cunninghame North MSP Kenneth Gibson revealed that a temporary lifeline has been provided to ensure the services will remain in use for the time being.

READ MORE: Community meetings organised as opposition strengthens against bus route axe plans

The SNP MSP said: "The SNP government, facing a 5.2 per cent cut in funding from Westminster this year nevertheless realised the importance of our bus services and increased the concessionary fares and bus services budget line from £321.8 million to £413.9 million – a 28.7 per cent increase.

"This is a bigger increase than any other budget line this year. However, the Network Support Grant element of that to support the (many) unprofitable bus routes is due to end on July 20, prompting Stagecoach to end the X34/X36 service.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Transport minister Jenny GilruthTransport minister Jenny Gilruth

"Yesterday I raised with my MSP colleague, finance minister Tom Arthur, and today transport minister Jenny Gilruth MSP and deputy first minister John Swinney MSP the continuation of the Network Support Grant with unused monies within the concessionary fares and bus services budget line for this year.

"Money for concessionary fares is available due to lower uptake than anticipated post-pandemic.

"I am pleased to say that Network Support Grant will now be extended to October 1.

"I would hope by then passenger numbers will have risen considerably through young people using concession passes and older people having the confidence to return to travelling by bus in greater numbers.

"Given this positive move I asked Ms Doherty and Mr Greer if the X34 and X36 services will now be retained.

"I am pleased that Ms Doherty responded just moments ago to say that while the service remains unviable, they will now seek to retain a basic service and will provide details over the next few days.

"However, it really now is a case of ‘lose it or use it!’"

A spokesperson for Stagecoach West Scotland told the Herald: "We have met with a number of our local MSPs to discuss the timetable changes from July. Unfortunately, we were not invited to attend the Beith and District Community Council meeting earlier this week.

"However, following discussions, we have committed to looking into whether there could be an opportunity to support a more limited connection service between Beith and Glasgow.

"No decision has been taken at this point regarding the introduction of a reduced or basic timetable, the X34/X36 remains unviable, and we must ensure that we have the most suitable bus networks in place for the long term.

"The future scope of the local bus network depends on people in local communities supporting the viability of services by using them, and by switching from the car to greener public transport as much as possible. We will keep customers and stakeholders informed once our assessment work has been completed."