The bus service in Orkney is vital in helping people to live independently especially for those with mobility issues.When it fails to deliver that service it impacts detrimentally on the lives of those who depend upon it.
That was the message loud and clear at the first public consultation event run by Stagecoach North Scotland and Bus Users Scotland. A representative from Orkney Islands Council was also in attendance at one of the two meetings held this week, in Kirkwall, however, failure to attend the one in Stromness was criticised by members of the public.
Passengers raised several issues about the bus service in Orkney:
- the age of the buses
- cleanliness of the vehicles, outside and in
- number of breakdowns
- driver presentation and attitude
- drivers knowledge of the use of the ramp
- frequency of the buses especially on rural routes
- impact of large numbers of cruise ship passengers using the service
- not stopping
- connectivity with ferries on mainland Scotland
- space for bicycles
With passenger numbers in Orkney on the increase the meeting was assured that there were no plans to reduce bus services locally. There were plans to gradually introduce newer vehicles into the Orkney fleet which by 2020 must all be fully accessible.
The Kirkwall Town Route run in conjunction with Orkney Islands Council which does not run in the evening came in for some criticism. The shelter display information which is run by the council often bears no resemblance to what time the bus will be arriving as it is not linked to the actual service. Passengers were recommended to download and use the Stagecoach App which would have reliable timetable information.
In Orkney Stagecoach employ 16 full time drivers and some part time. Although regular mandatory training takes place passengers felt that there were a minority of drivers who were rude and uncooperative. They were advised to contact the local office to raise complaints. Some felt that though they had done this that they had never heard back. Bus Users Scotland, however, will also investigate complaints and guaranteed that they will get a response for you. It is there to deal with customer issues and work in the interests of the passenger.
Stagecoach were holding talks to address the impact on regular passengers of the huge rise in bus user numbers when a cruise ship is in. This affects not only the capacity of the bus but also punctuality as many more people board it. A suggestion from a member of the public was to have a generic day ticket for cruise ship passengers which they could buy at the information desks set up during liner visits.
Discussions were also being held to look at a service for the new hospital.
As a first event of its kind held in Orkney, Stagecoach North Scotland and Bus Users Scotland felt it had been successful allowing those who attended to share their views on the current service.
Useful Fact Sheet: DDA-factsheet-Transport
Reporters: Fiona Grahame and Nick Morrison