Further to the update in the February edition of Kingswells News a number of residents have been in touch wondering what’s going on regarding the future provision of bus services. Dates have slipped slightly but the process is back on track and the proposed start date remains as 2nd April 2018.
The deadline for submission of tenders was Friday 2nd March with the content of those tenders to be evaluated shortly afterwards, so in effect there is nothing more to report regarding the outcome and a further update will be issued as soon as the outcome is known.
The awarding of a tender is of course dependent upon the tender being within the allocated budgetary provision and being in compliance with the service specification outlined in the tender document. The further complication is that Aberdeen City Council is considering its annual budget on Tuesday 6th March.
Adequate provision for the service at the previously agreed budgetary level has been incorporated into the report to councillors. The danger, as with all budgetary matters, is whether or not it remains intact in the budget which gets passed by the council. On the bass that this was unanimously agreed on 20th September 2017, the likelihood of political shenanigans are minimal, but cannot be discounted.
Following on from that, subject to the budgetary provision being agreed, the bids will be evaluated and, subject to there being a successful bidder, the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland will be asked to fast track the registration of the new service. In the past she has been willing to do so, given the unusual situation currently prevailing in Kingswells.
Kingswells Lib Dem councillor Steve Delaney said, “This process has taken longer than it needed to. If councillors had agreed to go to tender on 9th March 2017 as I had requested, the new service would have been up and running months ago.”
“We are where we are and I’m hopeful all the pieces of the jigsaw will slot together and Kingswells residents will be able to benefit from a new regular reliable service into the city centre.”
“As a result of this process taking so long to progress there has understandably been much anxiety within the community. A number of valid questions have been raised and I will attempt to answer these below”.
Questions about the new Kingswells bus service
Q. The 94 contract was set up for 12 months and should cease on or around 2nd April 2018. If there’s a delay in implementing a new service will wee end up with no buses at all?
A. The council has the option to extend or curtail the contract. My expectation is that the current contract would continue until such times as a new service was put in place.
Q. When will residents be consulted on the new route and the details of what is on offer?
A. There are no plans for further consultation. Drop in sessions were held on 12th and 15th October 2016 and a public meeting was held on 2nd March 2017. These were well attended and everyone’s feedback was collected from these events and used, as far as was possible, in the design of the new bus service.
Q. Which route will be used?
A. The tender specifies Lang Stracht as the preferred route. However, it is preferred not set in stone. There is provision for other routes to be considered and these will be assessed against a number of set criteria.
Q. What happens if no tenders are received or the amount of subsidy requested by bus companies to support the service is in excess of the available budget?
A. The matter is referred back to committee and nothing can be progressed until a decision is taken.
Q. What happens if the supported bus services budget is cut in the budget on 6th March 2018?
A. Kingswells is the top priority for allocation of this budget but what actually happens depends very much on the size of any cut and the matter would likely need to go back to committee for a decision.
Q. Is the continuation of a shuttle bus feeding the Park & Ride one of the possibilities?
A. The tender calls for an operator to offer a service which goes directly to the city centre. There is no requirement to call at the Park & Ride.
Q. What is the most likely outcome of a successful bid?
A. The extension of an existing route by one of the bus companies to include Kingswells rather than a standalone service.
Q. What frequency of service can we expect?
A. Committee approved that we tender for a 30 minute peak time service daytime, hourly service off-peak and evenings Monday to Saturday with an hourly service on Sundays. The hours of operation approved by committee was between 06:00 to 23:00 Monday to Saturday and between 08:00 to 22:00 on Sundays. What comes by from the tenders is anyone’s guess, but that was the minimum specifications set out by committee.
Steve said, “Please rest assured another update will be issued as soon as matters become clearer. This will not happen immediately after the budget as much work remains on assessing the bids, routes and timetables offered and registering the agreed route.”
“I have Focus deliveries geared up to go out soon after a the details are finalised so that every household in Kingswells is informed as soon as possible”.