Last Postbus reaches the end of the road

She has carried dogs, bikes, tourists and many a local over one of the Highlands' remotest routes as part of an operation stretching back 50 years.

An incarnation of the Postbus which has served rural communities around the UK for 50 years

However the unique service provided by Susan Macleod and her colleagues reaches the end of the road today when Britain’s last Postbus makes its final journey.

The Lairg-Tongue run in Sutherland is being discontinued by the Royal Mail amid acrimony with the route’s Highland Council funder.

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The Postbus, which can carry four passengers, is the last of a fleet that once covered 200 routes across some of the furthest flung parts of Scotland, Wales and northern England.

Susan Macleod, left, who has been the Postbus driver and delivery postwoman on the Lairg-Tongue route for 12 years, at Crask Inn in 2009. Picture: Bob Barnes-Watts

It will be replaced by a larger van which the Royal Mail said could carry more parcels and speed up deliveries.

The firm said the number of passengers had also dwindled to an average of just three a week – half that in 2005.

The end of the service follows four routes in the Western Isles being withdrawn last year.

Postbuses were first launched in Wales in 1967 by postmaster general Tony Benn to replace axed rail lines and bus services.

Picture: TSPL

The first arrived in Scotland the following year, between Dunbar and Innerwick, and by 1993 there were 140 buses, carrying 80,000 passengers a year.

Ms Macleod, who has been the Tongue route’s Postbus driver and delivery postwoman for 12 years, said she will miss the company but will continue delivering its mail in the bigger van.

She said: “I’ll miss all the blethers with the regular passengers, and everyone who gets on the bus always say they wish they had my job.

“But it can be difficult both in the summer and the winter. The winter because of the weather and the snow we see here quite often, as I have to get to Tongue to start my route and the road can be difficult in snow.

Susan Macleod, left, who has been the Postbus driver and delivery postwoman on the Lairg-Tongue route for 12 years, at Crask Inn in 2009. Picture: Bob Barnes-Watts

“The summer is difficult too because of all the tourists as space is at a premium.

“It can be a challenge getting them on the bus with all the mail, especially if they have rucksacks.

“It’s also a challenge if people have bikes, as we need to take wheels off to get them on the bus.

“Springtime is my favourite, as the days are lighter, the weather picks up and it just tends to be locals, and I enjoy the chats we have along the way. I’ve had many dogs on the bus too and all of them have been very well behaved.”

Picture: TSPL

A Royal Mail spokeswoman said: “Our Postbus has performed an important service in the Highlands for decades but the mail we now deliver has changed dramatically, much more parcels and online shopping making space on the bus at a premium.

“Unfortunately picking up passengers can also slow down our delivery operations so we would hope deliveries are quicker than before.

“The decision to cease the service, operated by us, was taken by Highland Council, the transport provider, which has informed us that their budget will not cover any increase to the current fee.”

But a Highland Council spokeswoman said: “It is not correct that we decided to cease the Postbus service – it was Royal Mail’s decision. The council has a limited budget which it might use to support a transport service on this route, and is currently assessing the level of need to design a replacement service.”