Welcome for electric buses to improve air quality

Bus Services in Dundee Should serve the needs of people

Xplore Dundee have announced a series of changes to their bus services in Dundee which they plan to bring on January 24 2021.

As the transport spokesperson for Labour in Dundee I have responded to these changes.

Firstly, I want to pay tribute to all those who have worked hard to keep public transport going over the pandemic.  These workers have been on the front line and we all owe them a debt of gratitude.

I recognise that as a business Xplore Dundee face a huge challenge if Scottish Government funding at its current levels is removed.  I understand what Xplore Dundee are trying to do with these plans and some of their plans are to be welcomed.  I particularly welcome Xplore Dundee's updated app which will hopefully give Dundonians the information they need to help them use the bus.  I also welcome the news that bus fares from Xplore Dundee will be frozen in 2021.

Prior to the pandemic I think we should have been looking for a better bus service in the city.  As we build back, we should be looking to build back better.  It is disappointing that many services will be on a reduced frequency.  It is also disappointing that services like the number 4 which serve areas of my ward like Magdalen Green and the Logie Estate will not be restarting.  A number of the changes proposed will make it harder for older people and people with mobility difficulties to access bus services.  The proposals for what Xplore Dundee describe as 'In-Fill' Services have not been agreed or even discussed by Dundee City Council, a lot more work is required before this can become Dundee City Council policy.

The Scottish Government has been paying bus companies the level of subsidy which was payable prior to the pandemic, this has allowed bus services to continue.  At the same time for very good public health reasons the Scottish Government along with other levels of government has been discouraging the use of public transport.  The Scottish Government needs to take its responsibilities seriously, the Government has deliberately discouraged people from using buses; the Scottish Government needs to find ways to support bus services in Dundee and across Scotland.  It is not acceptable for the Scottish Government to undermine bus services and then allow the bus industry to wither on the vine.

I would encourage people in Dundee to make their views known about these changes.  Let Xplore Dundee know what you think, let your councillors know what you think, and tell your MSPs that the Scottish Government needs to look to find ways to support bus services in Dundee.

I think that Dundee City Council does need to have a very hard look at what it can do to support bus services in Dundee.  Could the council give buses greater priority in the city?  Could the council call on the Scottish or even UK Governments to continue support for bus services in the city to ensure that the pandemic does not lead to a significantly reduced service for people in the city?  How could the council bring together all bus operators in the city and produce a service which truly serves the needs of the people of Dundee? I will be placing an item on the agenda of a  Dundee City Council meeting to ensure that councillors get the chance to have their say over bus services in the city.

In the meantime, I have written to the Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson calling on him to give clarity about ongoing support for the bus industry.  We should be building back better to give people a bus service which meets their needs, and which makes a major contribution to improving air quality and the environmental impact of transport choices as we deal with the climate emergency.

I will also be speaking to Unite the Union about potential impact any of these changes will have on workers at Xplore Dundee.

Fundamentally, if we want a bus service which serves the needs of people in Dundee we cannot leave that solely to market forces, to deliver a bus service we need to run buses in the interests of the public and not in the interests of shareholders.