For three days a week during the summer months of 2012 to 2016, two minibuses have made four complete circuits of a Killin – Kenmore – Acharn – Aberfeldy – Amulree – Crieff – Comrie – St Fillans – Lochearnhead – Killin circular route, travelling in both directions.
Over the past 5 years more than 10,000 tickets for the Explorer have been sold, accounting for almost 12,000 passenger journeys. The project captured the imagination of both visitors and locals and featured prominently in the press and also on television.
In June 2013 the Breadalbane Tourism Co-operative received a Regional Partnership in Tourism Award in VisitScotland's Scottish Thistle Awards for the 2012 Ring of Breadalbane Explorer pilot service. Interest in and usage of the service increased steadily over the 2012 – 2016 period, with daily ticket sales and journeys per day reaching a record high in 2016.
"Used this service every day it was available while holidaying in Highland Perthshire. As a non driver it is fantastic to get to and from the surrounding lochs, villages, towns, hills and mountains. Very friendly and knowledgeable drivers, too." [TripAdvisor]
While the public has judged the service a great asset and success, as a public transport service in a lowly populated rural highland area it can never be self -financing. Fare revenues cover only 15% of the operating cost and in 2016 each passenger journey has required a subsidy of some £18.
Over the years, major public sector funding for the service has come from: Transport Scotland Bus Investment Fund; Perth & Kinross Council; Stirling Council; Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership; Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority; Forth Valley & Lomond and Rural Tayside LEADER; Scottish Enterprise; Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust. 35 private sector sponsors also contributed towards the cost of operating the service. In addition, the
Public Transport Unit of Perth & Kinross Council has provided invaluable administrative assistance over the past five years.
Unfortunately, it has not been possible to obtain forward funding for the Ring of Breadalbane Explorer for 2017 and beyond. Some of our past public sector sponsors have made it clear that their role was to help establish the service but that ultimately they envisaged the heavily subsidised service being taken over by the relevant local authorities.
The Breadalbane Tourism Co-operative asked the principal local authority involved, Perth & Kinross Council, if they would be willing to provide the service in future years but in view of the financial constraints facing the Council over the next three financial years we have been advised that it is very unlikely that the Council's local bus service budget will be able to fund the Explorer going forward.