Monday, August 20, 2012

Concern over council's lack of progress on Demand Responsive Transport

I have today criticised the City Council’s alarmingly slow progress with the provision of Demand Responsive Transport, to fill gaps in bus service provision across Dundee.

Back in 2008, as the then Planning & Transport Convener of the City Council, I discussed with the then Dundee Accessible Transport Action Group (DATAG) bringing in pilots of Demand Responsive Transport to improve public transport both in Dundee and across Tayside/Stirling for those with accessibility problems in terms of existing provision.  

As the then Chair of TACTRAN, the Regional Transport Partnership, I moved forward a consultation exercise for its buses strategy and, within this, specifically, community transport and demand responsive transport.    Two pilot projects were agreed – an urban one for Dundee and a rural one for Perthshire/Stirlingshire.    I am disappointed at the slow lack of progress since the SNP administration took over control of Dundee City Council in 2009 and took the chairmanship of TACTRAN.

Demand Responsive Transport – or ‘Dial a Bus’ – will help bring some form of bus service to those communities across the city that have no or poor services at the moment.   With flexible routing and scheduling of small or medium-sized  vehicles operating with pick-up and drop-off locations according to passengers needs, it would be a boon particularly for elderly people and those with mobility difficulties.

I’m frustrated with the City Council’s lack of progress on the issue over the past three years.    There’s a need for some momentum into the process and I don’t see that happening.

TACTRAN advised me in July 2011 that:

“Dundee City Council is leading on implementation of the DRT scheme, in partnership with TACTRAN.   Revised options are being considered for the delivery of DRT, with the aim of introducing a pilot scheme during 2011/12.    It is anticipated that the scheme will commence in December 2011 at the earliest.    £30,000 is allocated within TACTRAN revenue budget and £125,000 within the joint TACTRAN/DCC Capital budget in 2011/12 to support the introduction of DRT in Dundee.”

This DRT introduction has still not happened and, last week, the City Council’s Head of Transportation advised me:

“The options of community and social enterprise delivered DRT have presented extraordinary challenges in terms of capacity and legal/procurement matters.    We have been looking at further operational models and are looking to bring forward solutions early in 2013.”

I have long been of the view that if the City Council could not move Demand Responsive Transport through a community-based model, it should move it forward by tendering for the service to get a commercial partner involved, which would also ensure the DRT pilot was delivered at the lowest possible cost, tendered on the open market.

There are good bus services across much of Dundee, but there are numerous communities in the city that have limited or no service.   Demand Responsive Transport – Dial A Bus – provides a possible cost-effective solution to give these residents a bus option.    It will particularly benefit those with mobility difficulties and elderly residents, but the pilot proposal needs some real momentum behind it.