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Smart Bus - Bringing Confidence into Public Transport. Meeting of 21 October 2004.

This was the topic presented by Niall Gardiner and Neil Gellatly, Dundee City Council and Roger Hacker of JMP at this joint meeting with the ICE and IHT.

Niall Gardener gave a brief overview of the topography of Dundee. The city 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.

Whilst a local transport strategy is not statutorily required, it does focus on transport policies, encourages debate between partners and is a prerequisite for any transport project funding from the Scottish Executive. Dundee City Council's strategy is to adopt the Government's five key objectives but prioritised with social inclusion and accessibility at the top of the list. Local authorities can bid for funds from the Public Transport Fund (PTF) either for grants or additional borrowing consent to enable "step changes" to be made in the provision of public transport developments. The PTF only provides capital funding with money provided over a maximum of 3 years for projects. Since 1999, of the £210 million available, Dundee has secured some £12.5 million which has been used for a number of projects, including "Tayway", the Outer Ring Real Time Information Project, the North-East and North-West Arterial Routes, and various junction improvements with bus priority provision.

In 2001, following a workshop to examine public transport in Dundee in which all interested parties participated, a number of objectives were identified, with the improvement to the quality of bus interchange, facilities, information and access being the most important ones. Plans were developed to improve the major interchange facilities and bring in high quality features, together with the provision of much improved information and funding of £2.31 million was made available, together with a contribution from the NHS Trust for improvements at Ninewells Hospital.

In Dundee City Centre, improvements were planned for the Whitehall Street, Victoria Road, St. Andrews Street/Albert Street and at Ninewells Hospital. Some 10% of all journeys made by public transport are to and from Ninewells Hospital. Passengers would have an improved waiting environment with better infrastructure, improved passenger safety and accessibility. Some 900 bus stops would be improved with raised kerbing and information panels and at over 300 stops, bus shelters with seats, lighting and real time information. All buses now have CCTV for safety and security. The cost of this is in the order of £6.77 million. Coupled with this investment in infrastructure was significant investment of over £20 million by bus operators in new vehicles and Dundee now has one of the most modern fleets in the UK with all buses having low floors and digital CCTV covering all parts of the bus. The recorded images are retained for 28 days and are only viewed if an incident occurs, otherwise they are erased. The CCTV scheme is operated as a partnership between the Council, Tayside Police and the bus operators and it has proved to be extremely effective. Travel Dundee as achieved a 100% low floor fleet 11 years before required. Future investment plans include a bid for funds from the new Bus Route Development Grant (Kickstart) for "Cross City Direct" with £1.45 million to be committed over 3 years.

Neil Gellatly looked at the infrastructure and described the bespoke bus shelters specially designed for Dundee City Centre by Nicol Russell Architects. These feature high quality materials and have lighting, seating and comprehensive bus information. The original plans were for an exhaust extraction system at the city centre bus stops which would remove exhaust fumes from the environment, recover waste heat for heating the seating and return clean air to the atmosphere. However, with many different designs of buses, all with their exhausts in different places, this part of the design was dropped. The new shelters in the city centre also feature planting on the roofs and offer significantly improved weather protection for passengers. The scheme will provide 340 Trueform bespoke bus shelters throughout the city and a further 550 bus stops will have improvements made. All bus stops and bus shelters are fully compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and CCTV is in operation at all city centre bus shelters.

At Ninewells Hospital, the old bus facilities were somewhat tired being a typical 1970's design. The bus interchange area was completely redesigned by JMP who were commissioned by Dundee City Council to solve the existing problems. Taxis were segregated from buses and full glazing was provided at the bus stops to provide full weather protection. Allied with other improvements, the impression given to alighting passengers is that once the get off the bus they are in the hospital. Real time information has been provided. The bus running area was reconstructed using reinforced concrete to provide a smooth and robust surface for buses. The Ninewells Hospital Transport Initiatives have been shortlisted in two categories in the upcoming Scottish Transport Awards - Transport Integration and Travel Information.

Roger Hacker of JMP then outlined the information provision. The consultation exercise had identified the provision of better information as a key component of any bus improvement schemes and this has resulted in the provision of comprehensive travel information. This comprises bus stop specific information at all bus stops and at bus stops with shelters there is additional travel information. In the city centre, there is also interchange information. Bus routes are colour coded for ease of recognition. Real Time information plays a significant part in the overall provision of information and LCD displays are being provided at all bus shelters. All vehicles are fitted with Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment and this is linked to the Public Transport Information System (PTIS) and there are links to Traveline. There is also a facility giving buses priority at traffic signals, especially if they are running late.

The provision of information is further enhanced by the provision of the Journey Planner Kiosks throughout the city. These are easy to use and allow intending passengers to enter when they want to travel, from where and where they wish to go and they system will provide the best option for the journey. Passengers can view the results of get a printout, free of charge. The system also features an interactive map that can be used as well. There is also a dedicated website, and information is also available via text messaging to mobile phones.

Overall, Dundee is making significant improvements to public transport, providing state of the art facilities and information. The City has worked with the operators to achieve this and with grants being provided, has been able to implement this innovative project that will make public transport in Dundee both easier to use and more accessible.

The Scottish Region would like to thank Niall Gellatly for his assistance in the preparation of this article.

Report by John Fender.


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