Public transport

Bus travel

How bus services are organised

Many bus services in Highland are operated commercially. That means that the bus companies decide what routes and timetables to operate. The Council does not fund these and has no authority over them. Bus services are registered with the Scottish Traffic Commissioner.

Commercial services in Highland include:

  • Most long-distance buses, including all Scottish Citylink routes;
  • All Inverness City routes
  • Most buses between Easter Ross, Dingwall, the Black Isle and Inverness
  • Some buses in Caithness.

Where there are no commercial bus services, or where the Council decides that more buses are needed, the Council can award contracts to bus companies to fill these gaps. We set these routes and timetables, and pay for the services. This is often called a “subsidy” but it is more accurate to say the Council is buying a service. As contracts are usually awarded by competitive tendering, the phrase “tendered services” is sometimes used.

Tendered services in Highland include:

  • All in Badenoch and Strathspey, except Scottish Citylink.
  • All in Lochaber, except Scottish Citylink.
  • All in Skye, except Scottish Citylink, summer seasonal services and the Portree town service.
  • Most buses in Wester Ross and Sutherland.
  • All buses in Caithness operated by Aaron’s of Wick or Dunnett’s Transport.
  • Some rural routes around Inverness.

Some routes are operated directly by the Council – see Highland Council buses for details.

Timetables

You can plan journeys by bus, train or ferry on Traveline Scotland or you can phone Traveline on 0871 200 22 33. Calls cost 12p per minute plus your phone company's access charge.

If you know the bus route number, you can also find the whole timetable on the Traveline website.

Most bus companies also have timetables on their own websites, and some also have apps which are very useful for purchasing tickets as well as finding live times and information about disruptions to services. 

Bus companies in Highland

Demand-responsive services

In some rural areas the Council supports demand-responsive minibus services – see Dial-a-bus for details.

Concessionary fares

Free travel for Scottish residents aged under 22, over 60 or with certain disabilities is available on all bus services. The concessionary travel scheme is organised and funded by Transport Scotland. 

Bus pass and travel discounts

Suggestions, comments and complaints

If your comment or complaint is about a tendered service, our Public Transport team wants to know about it, and we can take it up with the contractor. This might lead to some enforcement of the Conditions of Contract or some change to the timetable (for example, to bring in a more useful timing). You can email the team on public.transport@highland.gov.uk. If we don’t know about a problem we can’t solve it!

If your comment or complaint is about a commercial bus service you should contact the operator. Our public transport team will also be interested to know of your comment, and may be able to discuss it with the operator, but are not able to require any action on it.

If you’re not sure, the Public Transport team will be able to tell you whether a particular bus service is commercial or tendered.

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