Petition raises concerns about changes to Inverurie bus services
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A petition has been launched over concerns to changes to local bus services in Inverurie.
Its main focus is on the Service 22, run by Stagecoach, which is a lifeline for many older people travelling around the town.
Aberdeenshire Council is to run a trial in Inverurie with a new on demand service, which will allow people to book bus travel through a mobile phone app, email or over the phone.
This would replace the fixed route timetables in the town.
Petition organiser Yvonne Gordon fears the new system will be unusable for older people, who are the majority of the users of the buses and do not use mobile phone apps.
She said: "I am particularly concerned about the 22 town service.
"I use it myself on a regular basis to travel to my voluntary work and I rely on that bus.
"It is the only bus that can take people to Inverurie medical centre and to Upperboat Road and the housing schemes.
"It also transport for sheltered housing residents and a lot of elderly people rely on this bus. Because of this I don't think the app is going to work. A lot of the older people don't have smartphones or internet.
"I have started an online and paper petition against the plans."
The new system, which is planned to be introduced in August, would allow travellers to book a place in a bus when they want to travel. The nearest and first available bus will then be dispatched to them.
The passengers will then by directed to their nearest bus stop and if they are using the app they will get to see what time they will be picked up and can track the vehicle.
The system will also provide the times of any other bus services operating in the area.
If users do not have a smartphone they will also be able to book a place by email or over the phone.
The new service will extend as far as the settlements of Insch, Rothienorman, Oldmeldrum, Kintore, Kemnay and Monymusk.
Other services that are proposed to be withdrawn and fully or partly replaced include the 240 Saturday service and 416 weekly shopper bus Rhynie - Auchleven - Inverurie; 41 Insch - Inverurie; 308 Turriff - Rothienorman - Inverurie; 421 Alford - Kemnay - Inverurie; and 49 between Oldmeldrum and Inverurie.
The A2B dial-a-bus services, which have set booking times of 9.30am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday, will also be replaced.
It is intended that two minibuses normally used for the dial-a-bus during interpeak hours on weekdays will operate dial-a-bus in the Inverurie area for people who require a door-to-door service due to reduced mobility or because they live outside the new proposed area.
A tender has been put out to bus companies for the new service, which would involve using five minibuses from Monday to Saturday.
Mrs Gordon added: "My main concern is for the older people and if they are unable to use this new service to get into town and how it will affect their mental health.
"Also with the new service if a person needs to be at a place for a certain time, like for a doctors appointment, and they tried to book the bus there is no guarantee it will come as it could be anywhere.
"The 22 comes regularly, is a good timetable and a good service.
"The petition is in the local shops and community spaces, there is around 300 signatures so far."
The council held a virtual consultation to collect views on the new scheme.
The local authority said more than 300 community responses were received to the engagement process, with 76 per cent of those responding feeling that this is a good time to try operating a different type of bus service, while 82 per cent said that if the new system operated in their area they would use an app to book their bus, some or all of the time.
The online version of the petition can be found at www.change.org/p/aberdeenshire-council-save-our-town-service-bus