BUS operator Stagecoach has been blasted for an 'unacceptable' Sunday service as lockdown restrictions ease across North Ayrshire.

Local councillors and commuters says the lack of any service after 3.10pm from Largs is inadequate and called for a return to the timetable run by the firm pre-pandemic.

There are only four buses per day on a Sunday between Largs and West Kilbride - with the last leaving West Kilbride at 2.39pm.

Labour councillor Alex Gallagher, who is Cabinet Member for Post Covid-Renewal, says locals have been left with an under-par service.

He added: "It is fairly obvious that this is inadequate.

"Looking at it objectively, it is not designed to encourage movement or economic activity and encourage movement between communities. It is designed for the convenience of the bus operator and the minimum required for their grant.

"We can't have a bus service but doesn't serve the people.

"I am sure that Stagecoach will cite social distancing and people being reluctant to travel but the fact remains that the bus is a vital lifeline service, the same as the ferry and the train, and to have only four buses a day in and out of Largs serving the communities of Fairlie and West Kilbride isn't good enough.

"The least we can expect is a consultation with people living along the route and dialogue with the local authority."

The bus service was reduced last year as a result of the pandemic, with tickets for a return journey between Largs and Fairlie increased to £4.50.

SNP Councillor Alan Hill also called for change.

He said: "The buses always seem relatively busy in the summer months and I don't think they would be any less busy now.

"If you look at the Ayrshire Growth Deal and the weight it places on connectivity and the local economy, we need to meet that.

"It seems crazy that the price has jumped up to £4.50 return between Largs and Fairlie yet they put on such an infrequent service on a Sunday."

Stagecoach run a half hourly bus service from Monday to Saturday - with an evening 585A bus service which runs hourly.

We recently reported how customers had hit out the high prices Stagecoach had set. A return fare between Fairlie and neighbouring village West Kilbride will now set bus users back a total of £6, an increase from £4.90.

A spokesperson for Stagecoach West Scotland said "We have operated altered timetables across all of our bus services since March last year to ensure that essential travel could remain in place. All timetables are reviewed in line with government guidance and the latest travel restrictions on a regular basis.

"We will continue to monitor demand for the 585 service on Sundays, however as bus services are currently being supported with government funding, any increase must be driven by evidenced demand and provide value to the public purse.

"Stagecoach continue to ensure that our communities are connected to health, education and shopping facilities with appropriate levels of service provision and in line with government rules."