Children travel for 20p on Dundee buses

Just a reminder that the school holiday scheme to help families with young children get out and about runs right through the October school holidays until Sunday 21st October.
 
The City Council has again teamed up with the city’s three bus operators to offer a 20p fare to children when they travel with an adult fare payer or concession ticket holder.
 
The scheme allows families to enjoy a day out and discover the city by bus – with up to three under-16s per paying adult, including those with season tickets and weekly passes, travelling for 20p each.

Xplore Dundee bus change from 3rd January 2017

With thanks to Suzy Scott at dundeebuses.info, here is an Xplore Dundee bus change from 3rd January 2017 affecting the West End :
 
Services 5/9/10 (Barnhill – Ninewells and Outer Circle) (timetable is Monday to Friday only – no change to Saturday or Sunday) – Service 10 at 20.40 and 21.40 from Ninewells Hospital will divert to pick up at Tesco’s call centre in Baird Avenue at 22.06 or 23.06, running five minutes later through to Ninewells Hospital.    
 
As a result, Service 5s from Ninewells to City Centre at 22.30 and 23.30 will run five minutes later as a result.

Launch of new hybrid buses on 73 route

I was pleased to attend today’s launch by Stagecoach of its new hybrid buses that from today serve the 73 service that runs through the West End.

 
The 18 new vehicles feature distinctive branding encouraging the public to ‘Go Green’ by trying the new hybrid buses which will also feature free wi-fi access onboard.
 
The 18 electric powered hybrid double deck buses marks an investment of around £5.3m by Stagecoach and as well as being attractive new vehicles, they have a positive impact on the environment as well.
 
Here’s a couple of photographs from the launch :
The new hybrid bus type on the 73 route
From the left – Neil Gellatly (Dundee City Council Head of Transportation), Cllr Alan Ross & myself!

City Council’s abject failure over Demand Responsive Transport

I have today criticised the City Council’s abject failure over Demand Responsive Transport, to fill gaps in bus service provision across Dundee.
 
Back in 2008, as the then Planning and Transport Convener of the City Council, I discussed with the then Dundee Accessible Transport Action Group (DATAG) bringing in pilots of Demand Responsive Transport to improve public transport both in Dundee and across Tayside/Stirling for those with accessibility problems in terms of existing provision.     
 
As the then Chair of TACTRAN, the Regional Transport Partnership, I moved forward a consultation exercise for its buses strategy and, within this, specifically, community transport and demand responsive transport.    Two pilot projects were agreed – an urban one for Dundee and a rural one for Perthshire/Stirlingshire.    However, there had been a total lack of progress since the SNP administration took over control of Dundee City Council in 2009 and took the chairmanship of TACTRAN.
 
Demand Responsive Transport – or ‘Dial a Bus’ – would help bring some form of bus service to those communities across the city that have no or poor services at the moment.   With flexible routing and scheduling of small or medium-sized  vehicles operating with pick-up and drop-off locations according to passengers needs, it would be a boon particularly for elderly people and those with mobility difficulties.
 
So – here’s the promises I have been given about the issue since 2011 – its hugely frustrating to witness the council’s abject failure to achieve any progress on the issue over the past five years :    
 
2011:
 
TACTRAN advised me in July 2011 that:
 
“Dundee City Council is leading on implementation of the DRT scheme, in partnership with TACTRAN.   Revised options are being considered for the delivery of DRT, with the aim of introducing a pilot scheme during 2011/12.    It is anticipated that the scheme will commence in December 2011 at the earliest.    £30,000 is allocated within TACTRAN revenue budget and £125,000 within the joint TACTRAN/DCC Capital budget in 2011/12 to support the introduction of DRT in Dundee.”
 
2012 :
 
In August 2012, the City Council’s Head of Transportation advised that:
 
“The options of community and social enterprise delivered DRT have presented extraordinary challenges in terms of capacity and legal/procurement matters.    We have been looking at further operational models and are looking to bring forward solutions early in 2013.”
 
2013:
 
The Head of Transportation updated me stating:
 
“As you know the issues involved in Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) in the city are wide ranging and complex.  Officers are continuing to develop the concept of DRT, and during the course of this work have taken on board robust stakeholder feedback indicating that the current Taxicard scheme is very popular. Therefore the current focus is on developing an enhanced new generation smartcard based Taxicard scheme. Plans are in hand to design and then procure such a system during the remainder of FY13/14 and this task will be undertaken over the coming months.
When a new taxicard scheme is fully operational the design of a DRT system that meets the needs of the main user groups, while still being deliverable within available resources, will become the main focus of activity.  
As I am sure you understand the task of meeting the diverse range of needs presented by stakeholders provides us with a considerable challenge.  Meanwhile work continues to find out if there is an appetite in the city for developing the concept of a social enterprise or community transport managed system to complement/augment the more traditional in house/contracted route.  I will also be engaging with NHS Tayside colleagues in relation to DRT and the need increase mobility options for people with restricted mobility.    
I am confident that taken together all of this activity continues to maintain progress towards the council’s strategic aim of delivering a range of transport networks.”
 
2014 :
 
Last week, the Head of Transportation advised me :
 
“There has been no progress or development work on DRT‎.    The development of DRT will not be progressed for the foreseeable future.”
 
It is now crystal clear from this that there was a policy vacuum on Demand Responsible Transport from the council administration and a total lack of political will and momentum to see it happen.     The SNP administration has failed time and time again to bring in DRT that would help many citizens in Dundee.
 
There are good bus services across much of Dundee, but there are numerous communities in the city that have limited or no service.   The taxicard scheme for people with mobility problems is extremely limited in its scope.
 
Demand Responsive Transport – Dial A Bus – provides a possible cost-effective solution to give these residents a bus option.    It would particularly benefit those with mobility difficulties and elderly residents, but it appears it will take a change of administration in 2017 and a Committee Convener with some drive and enthusiasm before this bus improvement will ever see the light of day.On a more positive note, I would commend the Community Cars scheme in the city, a service for older people, where volunteer drivers provide affordable door to door transport.   It is not a substitute for DRT but it does show what can be achieved when there’s a will to make transport accessible for all.   The video below explains this excellent scheme:

Harris Academy Transport Sub Group

This afternoon, along with my ward colleagues, Mr Laidlaw (Depute Head Teacher at Harris Academy) and Dundee City Council transportation officers, I took part in the latest meeting of the Harris Academy Transport Sub Group.
 
The meeting is a sub-group of the Project Board overseeing the Harris New Build Project and looks specifically at the school transport issues.
 
What is pleasing is that many of the issues about transport for West End-domiciled pupils have been tackled and bus operations are working well.    However, if any parent/guardian has any concerns about the bus arrangements, do please contact me at home on 459378.    
 
We discussed arrangements for new S1 pupils coming to the school in August for the first time from feeder primary schools, to ensure full information about transport is given to parents and guardians in advance of the new school year, and also discussed progress towards having travel entitlement added to pupils’ national entitlement cards.

New Bus Service 5 (and X5) bus timetable and route clarification

Further to my article yesterday about the proposed bus service changes from Sunday 4th May, I have since had confirmation that the Service 5 route will indeed be altered at its western end back to the pre-2012 route, ensuring that the far west of Perth Road in areas around Clovis Duveau Drive and Millbay Gardens/Terrace will again get access to this service.
 
Along with local residents, back in 2012, I campaigned against the loss of the Service 5 in this area and over 230 residents signed my petition to attempt to stop this area being cut out of the route.   It is therefore great for local residents that the service will restored.
 
As I indicated yesterday, there will be a revised Service 5 timetable and changes to the route, with the western end of the route now becoming a one-way loop so that from Ninewells Hospital (getting there by the current route – eg Tom McDonald Avenue) it goes to the Technology Park then Riverside Avenue and Perth Road and then the current route to the city centre.     
 
I have now had confirmation that this definitely means that the part of the route along the very furthest west part of Perth Road west of Tom McDonald Avenue will again have access to Service 5 buses – albeit in one direction – towards the city centre – only.
 
With thanks to dundeebuses.info again, the route/timetable is now available here.

More about West End bus changes from 4th May

Further to my article last week about alterations to National Express bus services planned for 4th May, and with thanks to Suzy Scott at dundeebuses.info and outline detail published yesterday by the Traffic Commissioners, here’s some further information about the services I referred to that affect the West End :
 
Service 5 and a new X5   :   There will be a revised Service 5 timetable and changes to the route, with the western end of the route now becoming a one-way loop so that from Ninewells Hospital (getting there by the current route – eg Tom McDonald Avenue) it goes to the Technology Park then Riverside Avenue and Perth Road and then the current route to the city centre.     I await to see the detail, but it looks very promising that the part of the route along the very furthest west part of Perth Road west of Tom McDonald Avenue will again have access to Service 5 buses – albeit in one direction – towards the city centre – only.    Along with local residents, back in 2012, I campaigned against the loss of the Service 5 in this area, so it will be great for local residents if the service is restored.
 
The new X5 Service is only “express” in the part east of the city centre (Seagate to Dalgleish Road) but it will mean faster journeys for West End residents travelling to Craigiebank, Broughty Ferry, etc.   I await the detailed timetables but suspect the main benefit in terms of improved frequency of Service 5 overall (ie including X5) will lie east rather than west of the city centre.
 
Service 14 :   Only covers a very small part of the West End Ward (Technology Park and Ninewells Hospital) and alterations are fairly minor – although the 1435 service from the hospital is cancelled.
 
Service 15/17 :   There is to be a revised timetable “to improve reliability.”    The 17 (which serves parts of the West End – Lochee Road, Tullideph Road, Ancrum Road) will have a new one-way loop at the western end.   From Ninewells Hospital, it will operate via Kirsty Semple Way, Tom McDonald Avenue and the Medi-Park Link Road to the Technology Park, then Gowrie Park (Mallaig Avenue), Spey Drive and Charleston Drive to the hospital.
 
Service 22 :   Again, there is to be a revised timetable “to improve reliability” and there will be a new 2348 Whitehall Street to Ninewells Hospital journey operating all week.
 
More details as they are published will appear on National Express Dundee’s website and on Suzy’s dundee.info site.   Meantime, Suzy has a resume of the main changes affecting all Dundee services here.

Bus changes in the West End – more information to follow …

With thanks to Suzy Scott of dundeebuses.info for the update, I understand that there will be some changes to the National Express Dundee services from 5th May 2014 that will improve bus access along the Perth Road area, with changes to service 5 and a new X5.
 
There will also be changes to other services in the West End including the Outer Circle services and the 14 (service is largely not in the West End but includes the Technology Park), 17, 22 and 51 services.
 
New timetables and full details will be on www.dundeebuses.info from the evening of Monday 31st March 2014, once details are published by the Traffic Commissioners.

Harris Academy transport situation – an update

Further to my previous article about the need to review Harris Academy bus provision, yesterday there was clarification on the situation by Dundee City Council transportation team as follows:
 
“I am sure you will be pleased to hear that the additional bus on the route of the 12S is to continue after the October break.  The bus will remain in place until any future review of passenger loadings indicates that it is no longer required.
Operationally, I can advise that the duplicate 12S bus will commence from the bus stop known as ‘Perth Road near West Park Road’.    This will reduce perceived congestion around Clovis Duveau Drive at 0805-0810. 
I have also secured agreement from National Express Dundee that a larger capacity vehicle will be allocated to the 11S route.   This will generate space for an additional 8 pupils. 
Perth & Kinross Council have advised that, with effect from 21 October 2013, some Longforgan based pupils will be offered concessionary places on the Stagecoach bus that commences in Invergowrie.   This should relieve some of the pressure on the 11S and 12S. 
I have relaxed the guidance issued to drivers about boarding arrangements in the morning, which means that pupils waiting at Clovis Duveau Drive will be free to choose which bus they travel on to school.   I will keep this under review.
Having discussed the timings with senior staff at the school, it is not proposed to amend the current timetable.
Letters to parents were sent out earlier this week, advising them of arrangements for renewing pupils season tickets.  In August 2013, we had advised all parents by letter that season tickets should be retained and that further instruction would be issued during the October holidays.  I will consider whether this ‘renewal’ letter can, in future, be issued before the schools break for their holidays.”
 
In addition to the sensible decision to keep the second 12S school bus, it makes sense that it starts further down the route to avoid any bus getting over-full and I also welcome the larger capacity bus on the other route – the 11S.  
I do still feel that a marginal alteration of the bus times would have ensured that no pupil arrives late or misses the afternoon bus and I have asked that council officers reconsider this.

Bus timetable information – Perth Road and Nethergate

IBIS Interactive Unit
A constituent contacted me recently about the electronic bus timetable information (IBIS Interactive Unit) in Nethergate opposite Park Place and audio facility on Perth Road near Grosvenor Road as follows:
 
“I happened to try the “audio” facility at the eastbound (north side of Perth Road) stop at the Harris site the other day.  It isn’t working properly.  It belts out a response at loud volume, but that’s maybe the problem: there must be “feedback” within the system, or some sound imbalance, because it’s quite impossible to understand what’s being said: the words are drowned out by the general noise.  So passengers with poor eyesight get no information.
Also, it’s a great pity (in my view anyway) that the only timing information now available on-screen here and at Queen’s Hotel is the “buses due in next hour” times.  All very useful, but what happened to the actual timetables which you used to be able to call up on screen?  Not there any more.  It would be useful to have them (I needed to check one recently, for use on a return journey later in the day) – I had to go to the office and get the timetables on the web.  No doubt I could have walked to the next stop and got them.  But why withdraw the info from the actual stop?”
 
Having contacted the transportation team at the City Council regarding this, I have now received the following helpful response:
 
“I reported the IBIS unit faults as soon as you informed us and i believe they are now fixed.  
We discussed the IBIS units at length in our quarterly progress meeting with VIX ACIS, where VIX informed us that tests have been carried out on the IBIS unit down south to try and eliminate all of the issues.
These tests have been successful and the improvements will be rolled out to our IBIS units shortly.
In the meantime, if the IBIS units in situ fail at all, please do not hesitate to contact us, and I will log the fault and make sure they are repaired asap.”

Commitment given to improve Harris Academy transport situation

I have today welcomed a commitment by Dundee City Council to investigate several concerns about the bus operation for pupils living in the West End of the city who travel to the Harris Academy decant site at Lawton Road.
 
I have, over the current term, raised a number of concerns raised by West End parents about the operation of the 11S and 12S school buses and I am very keen that the operation of these services is reviewed over the October holidays to ensure that next term the issues have been fully addressed.   
Amongst the issues raised by West End parents :
 
a)There are concerns that one of the buses – the 12S – gets filled to capacity and that the capacity issue could be better managed.    Because the 12S fills to capacity, further along the route there have been instances of pupils having the stand on the stairs, which parents rightly view as unacceptable.  Parents have asked where it is the case that the first 12S is nearing capacity by the time it reaches Sinderins, it should then go direct to Lawton Road via Hawkhill, leaving the duplicate 12S immediately behind to pick up on Perth Road – or have one 12S run only from further down the route slightly earlier.
 
b)There is absolutely no doubt that the second 12S is required and must continue after the October holidays.     The council has said it would initially run the duplicate until the holidays but usage shows it is definitely needed long term.
 
c)Parents feel that the current timing both morning and afternoon is too close to the start and end of the timetable.   In the mornings, given that the buses arrive literally a few minutes before registration starts, there is a rush of pupils into the school and it only takes the bus to be a few minutes late for pupils to miss the start of registration.   Starting the services from their point of commencement a little earlier would resolve this.
 
d)Similarly at the end of the school day, the buses leave the school immediately after the bell sounds.   Pupils going to collect home economics items for example (as the school expects pupils to do who have cooking or baking to take home) then going out to get the bus, find the buses departed.   Therefore some pupils are skipping collecting items they have produced and paid for.    Again, a slight re-timing of departure would alleviate this.
 
e)There are instances of pupils with a priority pass and a paper slip for the afternoon bus not getting on a bus home.    This has to be fully resolved before the darker late afternoons start.
 
The City Council’s Head of Transportation has responded positively to my request for a review to improve the Harris Academy bus operations, as follows:
 
“Thank you for this useful feedback and I agree relatively simple amendments that we will consider.
 
A review of operations is being undertaken of the Harris decant transport arrangements.”
 
I am pleased that there has been a positive response from the City Council to my request for improvements to the school transport operations to Harris Academy for West End pupils.    It is important that these are addressed in advance of the darker winter days ahead.

No progress on Demand Response Transport

I have today criticised the City Council administration’s complete lack of momentum towards the provision of Demand Responsive Transport, to fill gaps in bus service provision across Dundee.
 
A year ago on this blog, I pointed out that, back in 2008, as the then Planning & Transport Convener of the City Council, I had discussed with the then Dundee Accessible Transport Action Group (DATAG) bringing in pilots of Demand Responsive Transport to improve public transport both in Dundee and across Tayside/Stirling for those with accessibility problems in terms of existing provision.    
 
As the then Chair of TACTRAN, the Regional Transport Partnership, I had moved forward a consultation exercise for its buses strategy and, within this, specifically, community transport and demand responsive transport.    Two pilot projects were agreed – an urban one for Dundee and a rural one for Perthshire/Stirlingshire.    However, at that time, I was disappointed at the slow lack of progress since the SNP administration took over control of Dundee City Council in 2009 and took the chairmanship of TACTRAN.
 
As I pointed out then, Demand Responsive Transport – or ‘Dial a Bus’ – would help bring some form of bus service to those communities across the city that have no or poor services at the moment.   With flexible routing and scheduling of small or medium-sized  vehicles operating with pick-up and drop-off locations according to passengers needs, it would be a boon particularly for elderly people and those with mobility difficulties.
 
After questioning by me, TACTRAN advised me in July 2011 that :
 
“Dundee City Council is leading on implementation of the DRT scheme, in partnership with TACTRAN.   Revised options are being considered for the delivery of DRT, with the aim of introducing a pilot scheme during 2011/12.    It is anticipated that the scheme will commence in December 2011 at the earliest.    £30,000 is allocated within TACTRAN revenue budget and £125,000 within the joint TACTRAN/DCC Capital budget in 2011/12 to support the introduction of DRT in Dundee.”
 
In August 2012, the City Council’s Head of Transportation advised me:
 
“The options of community and social enterprise delivered DRT have presented extraordinary challenges in terms of capacity and legal/procurement matters.    We have been looking at further operational models and are looking to bring forward solutions early in 2013.”
 
After further questioning by me last week, the Head of Transportation updated me further stating:
 
“As you know the issues involved in Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) in the city are wide ranging and complex.  Officers are continuing to develop the concept of DRT, and during the course of this work have taken on board robust stakeholder feedback indicating that the current Taxicard scheme is very popular. Therefore the current focus is on developing an enhanced new generation smartcard based Taxicard scheme. Plans are in hand to design and then procure such a system during the remainder of FY13/14 and this task will be undertaken over the coming months.
When a new taxicard scheme is fully operational the design of a DRT system that meets the needs of the main user groups, while still being deliverable within available resources, will become the main focus of activity.  
As I am sure you understand the task of meeting the diverse range of needs presented by stakeholders provides us with a considerable challenge.  Meanwhile work continues to find out if there is an appetite in the city for developing the concept of a social enterprise or community transport managed system to complement/augment the more traditional in house/contracted route.  I will also be engaging with NHS Tayside colleagues in relation to DRT and the need increase mobility options for people with restricted mobility.    
I am confident that taken together all of this activity continues to maintain progress towards the council’s strategic aim of delivering a range of transport networks.”
 
It is very clear from this that there is a policy vacuum on Demand Responsible Transport from the council administration and a lack of political will and momentum to see it happen.   
 
Whilst the taxicard scheme is helpful for those who qualify, it provides only the most limited sort of service.   People with mobility difficulties and the elderly who qualify for taxicard are given the equivalent of only two single journeys per week which is hardly the sort of service that allows people to get out and about every day.
 
There are good bus services across much of Dundee, but there are numerous communities in the city that have limited or no service.   Demand Responsive Transport – Dial A Bus – provides a possible cost-effective solution to give these residents a bus option.    It will particularly benefit those with mobility difficulties and elderly residents, but the pilot proposal needs some real momentum behind it and it is very concerning that the council is making such poor progress.

Harris Academy duplicate buses this week – a sensible way forward

Dundee pupils go back to school at the start of the new term today, but pupils of Harris Academy have two more days’ holiday to allow staff to finalise preparations for the opening of the temporary facility at Lawton Road, so, on Thursday, Harris pupils will set off to the new Lawton Road school site at the start of the new term there.
 
I have previously updated residents about the busing arrangements for pupils.   However, back in June, at the request of parents, I raised the following concern with senior officers at the City Council (I have abridged the content as it was rather lengthy) :
 
“Following Harris Academy issuing its pack regarding the decant to all pupils to take home … I have had a steady stream of concerns expressed about the 11S and 12S arrangements.   
As I alluded to at the Project Board, the concern is that, as the 11S and 12S are by far the best route (ie most direct and no need to change bus in the city centre) for pupils from the West End getting to Lawton Road, the potential for pupils not getting on down the route is real.    
(Parents) expressed concern at the advice not to wait for the “school bus” but to set off earlier using service buses – one, for example,  feels his daughter is sufficiently young that she would struggle with and be stressed by negotiating bus changes (presumably 5 to city centre then 1A or similar to Lawton Road area) in a bus city centre and he is naturally concerned that if she waits for the 12S (the school bus that is nearest to home) she may not get on it as it may be full that far east of the start of the route.     I note that at the project board a commitment was given to have a staff member on each “S” buses at the start of term to see that all runs smoothly, but what actually can a staff member do if the bus is full and a child is left behind?     I’m particularly concerned for pupils trying to alight in streets like Brook Street or Milnbank Road where there is no service bus that runs anywhere near to Lawton Road.   
He and other parents are asking the same question I asked at the Project Board – why is there not a “duplicate” service even for the first few days to see the extent of actual demand?    Better that than pupils left stranded at bus stops surely?    I do not buy the argument at all that if a duplicate was provided at the start there would be an expectation of running this long-term.   If demand settles down to less than a bus-full, the duplicate can simply be take off.
I would ask that a re-think on this is undertaken.”
 
After a fair bit of correspondence between myself and officers, I am pleased to say that the Head of Transportation has now advised:
 
” … we have arranged for additional vehicles to be available on Thursday and Friday as a contingency.  Pupils making their way to Harris Academy at Lawton Road should follow the advice issued in June 2013.
The transport operation will be assessed on Friday.
 
We have resourced two additional vehicles to cover both routes.”
 
I am pleased that there will be a temporary duplicate service on both the 11S and 12S on Thursday and Friday so that, at the end of this week, it can be assessed where or not having just one 11S and one 12S service is sufficient.    I have asked to be updated on the situation after the end of this school week.

Bus changes during road works

With the commencement of road works in Nethergate and the very east part of Perth Road up to Roseangle started today, I have had constituents ask about the effect on bus services 204 and 204a and also the Friendly Bus Sheltered Shopping Service that goes to Paton’s Lane Sheltered Housing each Tuesday.
 
The City Council has now advised me as follows :
 
204/204a Service
 
“Service 204/204A will still use Magdalen Yard Road when Nethregate works are in operation.
Members of public should be aware that the buses on Magdalen Yard Road will all travel in an Easterly direction, both travelling towards City Centre and Ninewells Hospital.
Towards Ninewells Hospital the service will travel along Hawkhill to Windsor Street down Windsor Street, along Magdalen Yard Road, turn left at top on Perth Road to Hyndford Street then follow normal route to Ninewells Hospital
Towards Dundee City Centre, the service will operate from Hyndford Street, then Windsor Street, Magdalen Yard Road, turn left at top onto Perth Road then turn right onto Hawkhill at Blackness Library, into Dundee City.
  
These diversions are in operation from today until Friday.
From Monday 12 August only services travelling towards Ninewells Hospital will use the diversion route.  Eastbound traffic towards Dundee City will not be affected.”
 
Friendly Bus Service
 
“(The council) …met with Stragecoach last week to discuss the friendly bus.   They have agreed that the service will run as normally, although may be running late at times.”

Rethink needed on new bus service timetable

I have called on the City Council to look again at the bus timetable for the new 9, 10, 11 and 12 service recently introduced by National Express Dundee, with subsidy support from the City Council.   This follows complaints by constituents in parts of the route around Tullideph that the timing of the bus is badly aligned with the only other nearby bus service, the 17.
 
Constituents in Tullideph are rightly complaining about the rather bizarre timetable for this new service.  The 9, 10, 11, 12 service is in itself a very welcome development giving communities evening and weekend services where these were previously lacking, but residents are rightly complaining that the timetable is badly aligned to other services.
 
The biggest problem is that the bus from the Tullideph area travelling into town is at 25 minutes past the hour and the 17 is at 26 minutes past the hour.    Both are half hourly services and passengers – many of whom are elderly – have to wait at least another 28 minutes for the next bus.    Many other areas of the city enjoy far more frequent services, some enjoying a 8 to 10 minute service.
 
It would make far more sense for the 9, 10, 11, 12 service to be spaced equally between 17 buses so Tullideph and adjacent areas got a 15 minute service.
 
The City Council’s Head of Transportation advised me:
 
‘As you will be aware a large percentage of bus operations in Dundee are commercially operated, of which we have very little say in frequencies they propose to operate.
We will, if necessary look to subsidise any areas that we feel are disadvantaged by some service withdrawal decisions made by the operators, as in this case, we have subsidised the 9/10/11/12 evening service and Sunday services.
I am aware that service 9/10/11/12 operates all around Dundee and has a running time of two hours which means that this service cannot run in between other services in all areas of Dundee. If the service was to operate evenly on Tullideph Road it would not operate evenly between buses in other areas of Dundee, and this was a decision that National Express have decided to operate.’
 
I responded saying that as the 9, 10, 11, 12 service is a subsidised service, the council should be able to influence the timetable and it would make a lot of sense to look again at the service timings.
 
The new service is welcome but it has to be appropriately timed to maximise the benefit for local communities such as the people living in the Tullideph area.    I have asked the Head of Transportation to look at this issue and it would make sense to discuss it with the operators, National Express Dundee.

Bus services – changes commence tomorrow

Residents will recall that, earlier this month, I gave an update on bus service improvements that are due to take place from tomorrow, Sunday 30th June.
 
In addition to some changes to the Number 5 and 22 services that serve the West End, there are some new services – the new (or rather the return of an Outer Circle service) 9, 10, 11, 12 (various versions) – includes evening an weekend services to Pentland, City Road and surrounding areas and the new 203 service – giving an off-peak Monday to Saturday daytime service to link streets like Glenagnes Road, Scott Street and City Road with Lochee and Perth Road.   A leaflet giving details of all of tomorrow’s bus alterations across the city can be downloaded here.
 
Every household in the city is being delivered a new bus network map.  You can download this here.

Latest on Harris Academy bus travel arrangements

Further to my article last month on progress towards ensuring there are satisfactory bus travel arrangements for pupils of Harris Academy after the decant to Rockwell takes place at the start of the new term in August, the City Council’s Head of Education (Secondary and Support for Learners) has updated as follows:
 
“A meeting was held on 5 June 2013 to discuss final preparations for the transport arrangements to Harris Academy Lawton Road.   The strategy of using the existing commercial network of bus services was finalised and I am confident that, following a short period of bedding in, the proposal will work well and that there will be sufficient capacity to accommodate all entitled pupils.    Our strategy of using existing buses is an affordable approach which gives pupils the added benefit of being able to access free travel on the NXD bus network throughout the school year (term-time).   
 
There have been concerns expressed about potential capacity issues and in particular the attractiveness of the direct buses to Lawton Road relative to other bus services.   With the exception of the double decker bus that will leave from Invergowrie each day, all the bus services are registered (i.e. available to the public).  This means we are somewhat restricted in what we can do to manage loadings at the beginning of the return journey from Rockwell, but the school is planning to adopt a number of strategies to manage the numbers and ensure the pupils make use of all the available options.   
 
These strategies will be communicated to pupils in the coming weeks, before the end of the summer term and may be adapted following experience of the first few weeks in August 2013.  I can confirm that we do not plan to provide additional capacity over and above the registered services.  These plans have been discussed and shared with colleagues from Perth & Kinross Council.”
 
I have been in correspondence with council officers about possible capacity issues with the proposed 11S and 12S new school buses which leave Perth Road to Rockwell each morning (by different routes and doing the reverse journeys at the end of the school day).   These two services will be popular as they cover much of the Harris catchment area and it is vital that pupils can get on these services and that there is sufficient capacity.
 
A leaflet is being issued by the school to all pupils by the school that gives a good level of detail regarding travel alternatives – you can download it here.     I have sought an assurance that the leaflet will also be given to P7 pupils at feeder primaries who will attend Harris Academy from the start of the new academic year in August.

More on West End bus services improvements

Last month, I welcomed proposed bus service improvements that assist service provision in parts of the West End and are due to be implemented on 30th June.   These will see improved links for areas such as Pentland, Scott Street and Glenagnes Road with Lochee and Perth Road, daytime off peak Monday to Saturday, but will also give back an evening and a Sunday service to Pentland, City Road and surrounding areas.

 
With grateful thanks to Suzy Scott who provides hugely useful route and timetable information on her website www.dundeebuses.info, the following downloads will be of use to residents:
 
Summary of overall changes – download here.    Please note that the new school bus services detailed below for the Harris Academy decant are likely to be registered with the Traffic Commissioner from 30th June, the services will not start until the start of the new term in August.  The download refers to the first Tuesday of terms but, because of the decant preparations, the start of the new 2013/14 academic year at Harris Academy will be Thursday 15th August, so the 11S/12S will commence that day.
 
New (or rather the return of an Outer Circle service) 9, 10, 11, 12 (various versions) – includes evening an weekend services to Pentland, City Road and surrounding areas – download here.
 
New 203 service – giving an off-peak Monday to Saturday daytime service to link streets like Glenagnes Road, Scott Street and City Road with Lochee and Perth Road – download here.
 
Changes to the 5 service – download here.
 
Changes to the 22 service – download here.
 
Revised Harris Academy School Bus Services 11S and 12S Last Friday, I highlighted the proposed new school buses for the Harris Academy decant.   Please remember that, although registered as a service from the end of June, these bus services will commence at the start of the new term in August – download here.   

Harris Academy – decant transport arrangements – an update

Last night, I attended the latest meeting of Harris Academy Parent Council.     
 
Further to the information given to the Harris Academy Project Board on 24th April, there was an update on school transport arrangements to the Rockwell site from August.
 
The Parent Council was given detail of the likely routes of the re-routed “S” school buses.     The current 1S and 22S services that go to the Perth Road site will obviously not be required when the school is relocated during the rebuild project and will be replaced by two new services – the 11S and 12S (note change of service numbers compared to the provisional information given back in April) and it is envisaged that these will operate in the morning as follows :
 
11S – Leaving Perth Road at Clovis Duveau Drive each morning at 8.10am, the service will travel to Rockwell along Perth Road to the City Centre then to the decant site via streets like Rankine Street and Kilberry Street.
 
12S – Leaving Perth Road at Clovis Duveau Drive each morning at 8.12am, the service will travel to Rockwell along Blackness Road, covering streets such as Brook Street, City Road, Lochee Road and Loons Road.
 
Both buses should arrive at the Rockwell site at 8.40am.   Services at the end of the school day in the opposite direction will leave at 3.20pm, arriving back at Clovis Duveau Drive end of Perth Road at 3.50pm.
 

As all pupils who live in the catchment area and who live at least a mile from the Rockwell site being given a bus pass during the decant period of three years, pupils can alternatively opt for a number of main service bus routes as an alternative to the 11S and 12S, should this provide a better link between their home and the Rockwell site.

 
There are a number of aspects of the proposals I have raised with the Head of Transportation at the City Council in advance of the finalised arrangements being advised to pupils, parents and carers, around the second week of June.
 
At the Parent Council meeting last night, there were also useful updates on preparations for the decant to the Rockwell site, school staffing and finance matters.   I also raised the issue of evening classes and the operation of the Harris Education and Recreation Association during the decant of Harris Academy.

Additional bus service to assist part of the West End

A new peak time bus service, jointly funded by the City Council and Angus Council, and to be operated by National Express Dundee, will start next Monday (27th May) providing direct links between Piperdam, Liff, Ninewells Hospital and the City Centre.
The good news for the West End is that parts of the West End including Guthrie Street, Brook Street, Milnbank Road, City Road, Tullideph Road and Ancrum Road will be covered by the new route.    This is particularly welcome for those residents who used to rely on the former Stagecoach 74 service that was withdrawn back in 2009.
The timetable can be downloaded here.

Launch of Dundee’s new hybrid buses

This morning, along with fellow councillors, the Lord Provost, the city’s MSPs and other invited guests, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of nine brand new hybrid-electric double decker buses by National Express Dundee.   See photo from the launch at Dundee High School below:
It is great to see these Scottish-built, environmentally friendly vehicles being used on the Number 5 route that serves much of the West End and it was fitting that the party was taken on one of the buses to the University of Dundee’s Botanic Garden, where there were speeches by the Lord Provost and Phil Smith, Managing Director of National Express Dundee.   Phil is pictured giving his address (above right).
It was also good to take the opportunity of the visit to the Botanic Garden to speak with some of the team from the Friends of the University of Dundee Botanic Garden who are setting up for their plant sale tomorrow – see below.   It is on from 12 noon to 3pm at the Botanic Garden tomorrow – don’t miss it!

Bus service improvements welcomed

As reported in today’s Courier, I have welcomed the new bus services that will be run by National Express Dundee as services tendered by Dundee City Council.    
 
The services include a daytime (Monday to Saturday) service that will link parts of Perth Road, Scott Street and Pentland with Lochee and St Mary’s, an evening service (again Monday to Saturday) that will link parts of Perth Road, Scott Street and Pentland with Ninewells Hospital as part of an Outer Circle Service and a Daytime Sunday service that will also link parts of Perth Road, Scott Street and Pentland with Ninewells Hospital as part of an Outer Circle Daytime Sunday Service.
 
I have been advised by the City Council’s Head of Transportation that the majority of the new services will commence on 30th June, some changes in the north west of city (some passing through West End at the Milnbank Road area) relating to Angus Council contracts will commence slightly earlier on 27th May.
 
It is also hoped that the 30th June changes will include details of Harris Academy school bus changes for when the school decants to the Rockwell site.   I am anxious to ensure there is good bus provision for pupils to easily get to Rockwell and this was planned to include additional services from both the Blackness Road and Perth Road areas.
 
I have long campaigned for improved bus services for the Logie and Pentland areas because at present people in the sheltered housing part of Logie, Scott Street and Pentland have no evening services and nothing at all in terms of bus services on a Sunday.   These new services will improve the situation and also create a welcome daytime link to Lochee.    There’s more could be done in terms of frequency and timetabling but I hope this can be further improved if the new services prove to be a success.

School bus services during Harris Academy decant

In recent months, with the decant of Harris Academy to the Rockwell site fast approaching in August, the issue of school transport for pupils has been extensively discussed at the Harris Academy Project Board and at the school’s Parent Council.
 
I have been anxious that bus arrangements are satisfactory for pupils and ensuring that those pupils who live a distance from the decant site at Rockwell (obviously the majority of pupils given the Harris Academy catchment area) are given a bus pass and that satisfactory bus routes and options are available.
 
Following recent enquiries to me from constituents about progress, the Sustainable Transport Team Leader at Dundee City Council has advised me:
 
“My team is working with NXD to identify the most suitable routes for the two new schoolday only bus services to serve the Harris once it has moved to Lawton Road.  Each route will be operated with a double decker. The exact route is still to be confirmed, but it is likely that one bus will operate via Perth Road and the other via Blackness Road.  
 
The services currently operating to the Perth Road site from St Marys/Claverhouse will be cancelled at the end of June 2013.  We have also asked NXD to allocate larger vehicles to the bus services that are routed along Strathmore Avenue and are likely to be used by pupils at school times for travelling to and from school.
I am very conscious that we need to get the right message to the pupils/parents about their travel arrangements during the decant period.  We will be working with the school to provide high quality travel information once final routes are confirmed.”
 
I am pleased with progress thus far on the bus travel issue and it is vital that there are adequate services for pupils leaving from Perth Road and from the Blackness Road area.    It is an issue I will be keeping a close eye on in the coming weeks as we move towards the start of the school’s decant for three years, starting in August of this year.

Call for temporary bus passes to help elderly citizens

I have called on Scottish Government and Transport Scotland to investigate the viability of allowing local authorities to issue time limited temporary passes when elderly citizens who lose their concessionary bus pass.      This followed my assisting a local man in his nineties who had to wait around 10 days for a new bus pass when his original concession pass was lost.
 
The City Council does as an efficient job as possible in terms of getting elderly people replacement cards as quickly as possible but it nonetheless takes around 10 days for a new card to be in the elderly person’s hands because it’s a national bus scheme.    In a number of recent cases affecting local people, the elderly people waiting for their pass had limited financial means and were unable to use the concessionary bus scheme for around 10 days until their new pass arrived.    For very many elderly people, being able to use the bus is a lifeline for shopping, social activities and meeting friends and family.
 
I made the point to Transport Scotland who administer the concessionary scheme that, in the case of elderly people who lose their pass, would it not make sense to allow local authorities to issue a temporary pass/letter that is time limited to allow the elderly person to use public transport whilst awaiting their replacement pass?   This would make a great deal of sense.
 
The response from Transport Scotland is as follows:
 
“The Scottish Government provides Scotland-wide free bus travel on the basis of presentation of a valid National Entitlement card. This card is required in order to confirm a person’s entitlement and in order for the bus operator to be reimbursed accurately for the journey undertaken.  The card itself, which is printed and encoded at a central production bureau, and not a local authority office, contains a photograph of the cardholder, expiry date and confirms their entitlement.
Where a valid card is presented but does not work on the Electronic Ticketing Machine (ETM) on the bus, there is the option to hand over the card to the bus driver in return for a 7-day temporary pass. The card is then returned to Transport Scotland, to ensure there is an audit trail for the issue of the paper based pass. 
Where a card has been reported lost or stolen there is no provision for temporary passes or letters to be issued and there are no current plans for this to change as this could potentially increase the risk of fraud. There is a service level agreement in place between local authorities and the card production bureau which stipulates that a replacement National Entitlement Card will be despatched within approximately three working days following receipt of a replacement request having been made.  Our experience of this process causes us to believe this schedule is routinely achieved.”
 
In reality, elderly people wait up to ten days for a new pass given that they are actually produced in Hull and posted from there to the customer.    A temporary letter with a clearly indicated expiry date would not be susceptible to fraud if appropriate administrative arrangements were put in place and it strikes me that there is a real need for Transport Scotland to address the issue.

Monday activities …

Yesterday, I had a very useful meeting with National Express Dundee’s Managing Director and External Communications Officer following my raising issues about the recent bus fares increase.   We discussed the reasons behind the increase in some depth and it is clear that a number of the factors behind it are outwith the direct control of the bus operators, in particular the Scottish Government’s cuts to the Bus Service Operators’ Grant.      Although not linked to the recent bus fare rise, there are also concerns about Scottish Government’s cap on funding the concessionary travel scheme and the potential situation for 2013/14.
 
One issue I had flagged up at the time of the announcement of the fares increase was the disproportionate impact of fares increases on low income working age families and therefore it is good to learn of the Westminster Government’s month’s free bus travel proposal this month for jobseekers.   More details can be found here and I was pleased to learn that National Express is supporting this initiative.
 
Later yesterday, I met with the City Council’s Director of Corporate Services and with the City Architect regarding both the Olympia and Blackness Library projects.
 
With regard to the Olympia project, the officers emphasised their commitment to work with the contractor to ensure the revised contract timetable that would deliver the new facility is open to the public by June is achieved.   However, the officers said they feel it is inappropriate, given contractual confidentiality, to comment on the specifics of the reasons behind the delays in delivery of the new Olympia.    I reiterated my view that, whilst appreciating commercial confidentiality issues, the City Council should be open and transparent.
 
On the Blackness Library project, I was advised that the increase in the project timescale to 29 weeks was largely because of steps being taken to obviate noise disruption when the library is open to the public, keep one upstairs meeting room open for as long as possible during the works and the need to construct parts of the works on-site given the limited size of the site.
 
I am anxious to ensure that during the six weeks that the library is likely to be completely closed during the works, there are adequate alternative arrangements for the groups who use the facility and alternative library arrangements, whether that be use of the mobile library or a temporary alternative site in the West End.
 
Also yesterday I was updated by the Director of City Development regarding the remaining work on the pavements of part of the Perth Road shopping area that was delayed over the Christmas shopping work disruption embargo.    He advised:
 
“The SSE works were suspended as the works entered the Christmas embargo and it became apparent that they would not be completed without causing further disruption on the lead up to Christmas.  The SSE works recommenced today 7 January 2013 and are programmed for completion on Sunday 13 January 2013.”
 
Yesterday, with the start of the new school term, I held the first of my West End Ward Surgeries of 2013.   I hold surgeries every week during school term time as follows:

+  EACH MONDAY AT 4.20pm PROMPT : Mitchell Street Centre (in the Base)

+  EACH MONDAY AT 4.50pm PROMPT : Harris Academy (at the school reception area)

+  EACH THURSDAY AT 6.15pm PROMPT : Blackness Primary School (in the staffroom – ground floor)

Meeting with National Express Dundee over bus fares increase

As reported in yesterday’s Courier and Evening Telegraph, I have highlighted my concerns about the hike in National Express Dundee bus fares due to take place at the weekend, pointing out that these are well-above inflation and fail to recognise the government’s cancellation of the fuel duty increase that had originally been planned for the New Year.
 
I highlighted that the bus fares hike in Dundee is significantly above other price rises – the adult daysaver ticket increase to £3.40 (20p increase) is an increase of 6.25%.    The latest consumer prices index figures released by the Office of National Statistics on 18th December show CPI inflation at just 2.7%.
 
Speaking with West End constituents, it is clear that there is concern about the level of National Express Dundee’s bus fares increase.   Whilst those with concessionary passes will obviously not be subject to the fares increase,  it will particularly adversely impact on working age adults who are on a  low income.    
 
Dundee has a lower level of car ownership than average and very many Dundonians rely on local bus services.   The level of the bus fare hike is disappointing and I am meeting the Managing Director of National Express Dundee early next week to discuss the issue.    
 
I have also asked if the bus company will consider some form of fares concession to those Dundonians who are on low incomes and aim to discuss this and a number of West End bus service issues at next week’s meeting.