Further to my update yesterday on Xplore Dundee Christmas bus services, you can read details of Stagecoach festive season bus services here.
Xplore Dundee has published a summary of bus service levels and public holiday timetables.
This is now available here to help plan bus journeys this Christmas.
There is currently formal consultation period being undertaken by Xplore Dundee. The company recently announced a major review of its commercial network which will see changes in the number of routes served and frequency of services.
The changes to the bus network are detailed here.
The changes would come in effect on 24th January and the affected routes include the 4, 5, 9/10, 17 and 28/29.
I recently had an on-line meeting with the Managing Director of Xplore Dundee and one of her colleagues about the proposed changes. The most significant aspects affecting the West End are :
• Service 4 – Xplore Dundee does not intend to bring back Service 4 at this stage which has a real impact for the Scott Street/Logie area and also for Windsor Street/Magdalen Yard Road/Roseangle.
• Service 17 – Xplore Dundee intends to re-route the 17 away from Tullideph Road and Ancrum Road.
The situation for the 4 and the 17 concern me a lot and already numerous constituents have been in touch with me about these. Xplore Dundee advises me that it will discuss with the council possible “infill” services to cover gaps like these but whether or not this proves possible will depend on the council supporting such services and, as we know only too well from the axing of Service 204 in 2019, funding for this is limited.
Please note the consultation formally ends on Thursday 10th December – do please give Xplore Dundee your views.
Residents will be aware that the so-called “Blether Bus” that replaced the 204 bus service the council axed last year and covers a number of streets in the West End that would otherwise have no bus service – streets like Invergowrie Drive, Newhall Gardens and Glamis Drive – was suspended at the start of the COVID-19 health emergency.
The service assists older residents who find it difficult to walk the distances – often uphill – to the main service buses.
I recently noticed that Aberdeenshire Council has, with proper safety arrangements including social distancing, announced a restart to its Dial a Bus service that has similar aims. To quote that council :
“We preparing to re-introduce a number of #A2B #dial-a-bus services operated by our fleet of minibuses in a controlled and phased manner.”
I raised this with the City Council and have been advised :
“The Dial A Bus model of operation requires users to pre-book their journeys and this allows the operators to manage the number of passengers using the service at any one time – and the timings of those journeys. From speaking with colleagues from other local authorities I think most minibus services are limited to two passengers on the vehicle at any one time. The Blether Bus model is much closer to a bus service and there is no pre-booking option so we cannot manage journeys in this way.
We will continue to liaise with colleagues at Fleet about vehicle and minibus availability and appropriate protocols that need to be in place before we can safely restart the Blether Bus services.”
I have responded :
“ … surely some out the box thinking is required so what about temporarily converting the Blether Bus to something around the Dial a Bus model? I have constituents in streets like Newhall Gardens who simply cannot manage the hill up to Perth Road.”
A number of residents have highlighted that, although real time bus information is working at bus shelters, paper timetables have been out of date since the bus companies altered services during the health emergency.
As one resident pointed out in relation to the bus stop in Perth Road near Step Row :
“Perth Road is a main local community shopping area where people are being encouraged to think/act sustainably, yet the Step Row Stop (with no real-time display) has the main Stagecoach Tayway high profile route timetable still showing the old 10 minute weekday frequency, with appropriate comments from a disgruntled punter.
Add to that 2018 route maps not updated and … it is a far cry from “Bringing Confidence to Public Transport”. Attention grabbing EV and electric bike hire initiatives are all well and good, but the simple public transport basics should not be forgotten, particularly since the operators’ own traditional printed timetables, for now, at least, seem to be hard to find.”
I appreciate that, given the changing bus timetables during the health emergency replacing every paper timetable at bus stops is difficult in terms of resourcing but I have sought and obtained assurances from the that erroneous timetables will be removed.
Hopefully once there is more of a return to normal services and stability in timetables, new and correct timetables can be placed at every bus stop and we will also hopefully see the return of suspended bus services like Service 4 and the Blether Bus in the West End.
During the COVID-19 health emergency, some bus services have not run and these have included the “blether bus” service (run by the City Council) and Service 4 (run by Xplore Dundee).
The council’s Parking & Sustainable Transport Team Leader recently advised councillors as follows :
“As a response to lockdown, declining passenger numbers and the unavailability of bus drivers who were shielding, all bus operators reduced their commercial service offering in March/April 2020. This meant reduced frequencies on core routes and in some neighbourhoods the suspension of non-core bus services.
With financial support from Scottish Government, the bus industry has been able to slowly reintroduce services and increase frequencies so that passengers could return to services with confidence that they would be able to physically distance themselves from other passengers. Overall passengers numbers are now hovering between 55% and 60% of pre-covid levels but bus service provision is running closer to 90%. Within that overall picture of reinstated services, there are two commercial services operated by Xplore Dundee that have not been reintroduced and following discussion with Christine McGlasson, MD at Xplore Dundee, I can advise that there are no immediate plans to bring back either Service 4 (Dryburgh – Lochee – West End – City Centre) or Service 23 (Woodside – City Centre). Therefore, for the immediate future the residents in these communities will be required to walk further to access other buses operating on the core routes.
Separately, as lockdown approached, the Council took the decision to withdraw its minibus operations from service – including the Blether Bus Services, the weekly Shoppers Bus and the Out & About trips. More recently we have fielded a handful of enquiries about when these services might restart. Given the elderly user group that would normally travel on these services, the compact design of the minibuses and the requirement to have these vehicles available for school runs (with additional hygiene measures) it is not our intention to restart these services in the immediate future. We will keep the situation under review and take guidance from public health colleagues. We will communicate any decisions with users as best we can using a number of different channels in the weeks ahead.
The next couple of years will bring major challenges for the UK’s bus industry but we will work closely with all the bus operators in Dundee to give them as much support as possible as they face that challenge.”
I have spoken with many residents who miss the services that are currently not running. For example, the loss of Service 4 adversely affects many older folk in the Magdalen Yard Road, Windsor Street and Roseangle areas as there is no other bus service there and, for many elderly residents, a steep uphill walk to Perth Road to the nearest bus services. One resident in the area made what I felt was a very good suggestion of asking Xplore Dundee to temporarily do a minor re-routing of Service 17 to cover the area.
I raised this with the Managing Director of Xplore Dundee who replied as follows :
“I know this is very difficult, trust me, and I sympathise greatly with these communities. I understand why your constituent thinks this would be an easy fix and I do appreciate her suggestion, but it is not that easy. The 17 is established as a service for travelling to/from the district centre on Perth Road which would have to be missed in order to serve Magdalen Green and cause problems for existing users. Equally, the 17 is already quite a circuitous route between Ninewells and the City Centre so adding this in would not go down well with those who already use the service.
Clearly, the 17 is a core service carrying many passengers, although sadly many less than pre-Covid -we are currently at 59% of pre-Covid patronage. We believe that deviating from this core service and district centre would only switch off more customers from using the service than we would gain in going into this area. I hope you can appreciate that, despite really feeling for the people who are adversely affected, we could not encourage a further decline to our business in the present circumstances. We are having to make some really tough choices throughout this time as we don’t have the resources to do everything.
I hope this at least answers your question and sorry I can’t give you better news.”
I will continue to pursue the issue of the lack of any bus service here and hope that it will be possible to restore Service 4 in the near future.
You can access the full information here.
Further to the information I shared yesterday on my Facebook page about changes to Stagecoach Bus Services.
This is the position regarding Xplore Dundee from tomorrow with links to the Xplore services in the West End.
This will ensure an hourly service throughout the route. If any resident has a query about the 204 service, please do not hesitate to contact me.