Mr. James Lee, Managing Director, Travel Dundee in front of the RSS Discovery with the Tay Bridge in the background.
© John G. Fender 2011
In the superb surrounding of Discovery Point in Dundee, Mr. James Lee, Managing Director of Travel Dundee addressed the Scottish Region on "Building Confidence in Public Transport".
Dundee is now leading the way in UK bus travel and public transport. To achieve this attention has been given to the various ingredients that go to make up sustainable public transport and to solve congestion problems. Public transport is high on the political agenda, especially with traffic increasing year on year. Mr. Lee thought that we are at the dawn of a golden era for public transport.
Dundee's public transport started with horse buses, followed by trams and then buses. Over the years, the buses have evolved until today, the latest low floor vehicles are in use. The present company can trace its roots back to Dundee Corporation Transport department, through Tayside Regional Transport to the employee owned Travel Dundee company and finally the acquisition of the company by the National Express Group.
Dundee is situated on the north bank of the River Tay and is 9 miles long but only 3 miles wide. It has developed around the foot of the Law and the city centre is not in the centre. From a demographic viewpoint, the city has a population of about 145,000 and the regional catchment population is about 350,000. There is a large student population and areas of high unemployment and low income. There is also low car ownership with 50% of households not having a car.
In order to achieve modal shift, customers need to be confident in the use of public transport and a number of elements go to make up the public transport mix, including investment, partnership, innovation, pricing, safety, social inclusion and people. Travel Dundee has invested heavily in new buses and the entire fleet consists of low floor accessible vehicles.
One of Travel Dundee's latest double deck buses.
© John G. Fender 2011
Anti-social behaviour and crime relating to public transport is perceived to be a major problem by many people, but in Dundee this tends to be the exception to the rule. Buses are fitted with CCTV and a recent "Yes they do" campaign helped raise the profile of the CCTV system by emphasising that they really do work.
Passenger safety is of paramount importance and the bus industry is at the forefront of various partnership approaches to reduce the incidence of crime. Travel Dundee works closely with the police in the "Operation Safer Travel" scheme and other initiatives around the country include the partnership between First's and Lothian Buses in the "Young Scot Scheme". Stagecoach has donated a bus to help fight drug abuse in Fife.
All major companies issue "spit kits" to staff enabling DNA samples to be collected in the event of a spitting incident. Samples are passed to the police for analysis and this initiative has had some good results. It has also helped solve other crimes. The police regularly examine CCTV footage from the cameras on the buses. First has achieved a breakthrough in that is has secured a court decision that people who vandalise buses are made to repay the costs direct to the company.
Information provision is important and Dundee City Council is introducing a real time information system. All buses have been fitted with a GPS unit and there will be Real Time displays at 350 locations throughout the city. Coupled with traditional timetable leaflets and electronic departure information displays at key locations and combined with interactive information terminals, this comprehensive information provision helps passenger perceptions and boosts confidence in the services.
Improved infrastructure, such as high quality bus shelters and improved interchange facilities mean that customers have seamless journeys. The redevelopment of the bus facilities at Ninewells Hospital are a case in point. Infrastructure investment throughout Scotland over the last 8 years has seen some £285 million being spent on new low floor accessible vehicles, leading to an average vehicle age of 7.8 years this compares with Dundee's average vehicle age of 5 years. There has been 8% growth in passenger journeys, but vehicle mileage has only increased by 5%. Customer satisfaction levels are in the region of 85% of all customers satisfied with their journey experiences.
One of Travel Dundee's latest bus shelters.
© John G. Fender 2011
Park and Ride schemes have also been successful, especially those at Bridge of Don, Ellon, Broxden and the most successful of them all, Ferry Toll in fife. The Ferry Toll park and Ride scheme is currently being extended. Other initiatives include First and Glasgow City Council's Quality Bus Corridors where investment of £30 million over 10 years is providing 120 miles of Quality Bus Corridors.
These corridors include improved infrastructure, signalling improvements at junctions and information provision. Similar schemes are being introduced in Perth and Inverness. In Edinburgh, Lothian Buses and Edinburgh City Council have worked together to introduce the new guided busway.
Stagecoach pioneered the "Kickstart" initiative and this has been extended throughout the country. Today, it was announced by the Scottish Ministers that "Kickstart" funding of £1.7 million had been granted to Dundee for the proposed "Cross City Direct" scheme. This scheme links areas of new housing and retail developments around the city on the east-west axis and will provide passengers with interchange facilities without needing to travel into the city centre.
Mr. Lee also looked at other innovations in the Scottish bus industry, including Stagecoach's "Taxibus" scheme and their "Megabus" low fares operation that links major cities. This follows the pricing patterns established by the low cost airlines. Traveline Scotland is a partnership between bus and rail operators and the Scottish executive and is currently handling some 11,000 enquiries per week, with an additional 36,000 enquiries via the website.
Ticketing is an area where there is scope for innovation. Examples are the "One Ticket" scheme in the East Central Scotland, the "Plus Bus" scheme, where rail tickets include a bus journey and Arriva's "Paypoint" scheme that enables passengers to buy a wide range of tickets in shops and other outlets thus avoiding the need to pay the driver of the bus. Smartcard technology is also being introduced and Lothian Buses "Ridacard" is the best example in Scotland at present with some 60,000 cards in use.
Transport has an impact on the environment and public transport operators can make a major contribution to improving it, but investing in their fleets. Most buses now have engines that meet Euro 2 and Euro 3 standards and the use of alternative fuels is an area that is being actively considered. Better efficiency means reduced fuel consumption and this contributes to improving the environment. The standard of public transport makes a contribution to the quality of life. Efficient and reliable services, combined with value for money ticketing and simplified fare structures are the lifeline for many local communities. Concessionary fares for pensioners increases accessibility to a wide range of activities, again improving social inclusion.
But all of these innovations and aspirations would not be possible if it were not for the people who work in the public transport industry. Staff training is essential if operators are to provide high quality services and Travel Dundee is one of the leading companies in this respect. It actively encourages staff to undertake training to SVQ standard and had introduced a management apprenticeship scheme, again to SVQ level. Currently about 100 drivers have already gained an SVQ qualification with another 140 working towards gaining theirs.
So what is the way forward. There will be changes in the Scottish public transport industry as there is currently a bill going through the Scottish Parliament that will introduce a new regulatory framework. The Scottish Transport Agency is being set up and new Regional Transport Partnerships will be responsible for determining what each area provides. The public transport industry will work with them to provide a better service. Much more work needs to be done to improve the perception of public transport and there is much scope for further innovative projects throughout out the country.
The Scottish Region would like to thank Mr. Jim Lee for taking the time to address the meeting and for the provision of the generous hospitality and also his PA, Carol, who assisted Mr. Lee with his presentation.
Report by John Fender.
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