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New Demand Responsive Transport scheme to be brought forward for Newburgh and Balmedie

By David Porter

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The pilot scheme launched in Inverurie last year and has been praised by users.
The pilot scheme launched in Inverurie last year and has been praised by users.

Councillors will be asked next week to approve a grant award to Stagecoach Bluebird for the operation of Digital, Demand Responsive Transport (DDRT) service.

The new on-demand minibus service would operate in the Newburgh/Balmedie area on Mondays to Saturdays with Stagecoach supplying the passenger booking and vehicle scheduling/monitoring system and staff.

The proposal would complement the Council’s pilot DDRT project involving the Ready2Go Around Inverurie service operated by Watermill Coaches where the Council providing the back-office support.

Infrastructure services committee, at its meeting on January 21, 2021 considered a report on the Passenger Transport Clean Sheet Review and agreed to “approve a pilot Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) initiative be developed on the Deeside corridor and/or the Inverurie area, to evaluate the revised approach to supported bus service delivery”.

The Council-supported Ready2Go Around Inverurie DDRT service, which is operated by Watermill Coaches, was introduced on August 16, 2021 on a one year trial basis.

In October operators for passenger transport services were invited to apply for grant funding towards the operation of an Enhanced DRT service including the provision and management of the back-office booking and monitoring system.

Only one operator, Stagecoach Bluebird applied for funding, submitting options for operating a DDRT service in either the Deeside or the Newburgh/Balmedie area, using either an electric or diesel minibus.

The Stagecoach Bluebird options were evaluated by officers and while there was little difference in the proposals for the Deeside and Newburgh/Balmedie areas it was considered that the Newburgh/Balmedie proposal (electric minibus) scored higher in terms of the potential future impact on commercial and supported services, providing more opportunity for service rationalisation and associated likelihood of reducing or minimising Council support.

For example, supported Service 64 (Blackdog – Aberdeen, Monday and Thursday) could be withdrawn and supported Service 290/291 (Aberdeen – Methlick, Monday - Saturday) could be amended.

Following a decision by councillors, if approved the project will be taken forward by the bus company for introduction later in the year.

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