A Deeside bus service has been temporarily spared the axe as part of Aberdeenshire Council’s efforts to make £245,000 in savings by slashing spending on supported bus journeys across the region.
The local authority subsidises a number of services across Aberdeenshire, helping to cover the costs of what would be loss-making journeys for private companies.
In April, the council announced that its cash support would be withdrawn or reduced from 15 services, mostly in the Banff and Buchan area, and the changes were carried out at the end of May.
A map of the planned changes revealed in April:
But now, one of the services which was due to have its council support withdrawn will continue to be assisted until at least autumn, which will “allow further discussions with the local community on options for a longer-term solution”.
The council-backed 901 Sunday service between Ballater and Braemar, operated by Stagecoach Bluebird, has long been considered an option for cutting or reducing by Aberdeenshire Council due to relatively low passenger numbers.
And now, the council is urging residents to take advantage of the subsidised bus to get around the area in order to reduce their impact on the environment, and help keep busy car parks free of congestion.
“Do your bit to cut carbon emissions”
A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council said: “The Braemar-Ballater Sunday bus service is to continue operating into the autumn on a temporary basis.
“It comes as a consequence of the outcome of our recent supported bus service procurement exercise which has provided some financial flexibility.
“Our transportation service has confirmed that from June 13, the 901 service will continue to be operated by Stagecoach Bluebird between Ballater and Braemar in order to allow further discussions with the local community on options for a longer-term solution.
“Residents and visitors to the area are being urged to use the service as it provides a great way to visit the Cairngorm National Park and all the amazing sights and attractions the area has to offer without the need for a car.
“So why not let the bus do all the hard work, reduce the impact on limited parking spaces and do your bit to cut carbon emissions.”
Reasoning behind spending cuts
When considering which supported services to change, the council considered the number of passengers using each service over a 12-month period up to November 2019, in order to discount the impact of the pandemic.
In some of the services the council selected to reduce or cut support from, the average subsidy per passenger amounted to more than £20 for a journey.
Other factors taken into consideration were car ownership levels in certain areas, the percentage of the population with mobility problems, and poverty levels.
Stagecoach should “ensure service reliability”
Aboyne, Donside and Upper Deeside councillor Geva Blackett said she and fellow ward councillor Paul Gibb had called for the Ballater to Braemar service to continue.
She welcomed the extension of the service until autumn, and urged people to use it and reduce their carbon footprint.
She said: “I am delighted the Sunday bus has been reinstated, albeit as a temporary measure for the season I was disappointed to learn that because of technical issues with the bus, one of my constituents was left stranded and late for work when the 8.08am from Ballater to Braemar did not turn up on Sunday at the expected time.
“If you can’t trust the bus, you won’t use it so I hope Stagecoach will seek to ensure service reliability.
“As a national park and council both committed to carbon savings, we need to encourage people to use the bus and leave cars at home. I have asked the council, the Cairngorms National Park Authority and the Cairngorm Business Partnership to promote the service widely in their communications.”
A spokeswoman for Stagecoach Bluebird said: “Due to a vehicle fault the first journey on service 901 from Ballater to Braemar was delayed by 16 minutes on 13th June, checking our historic tracking we can see the service arrived at Crathie at 8.36am.
“We can only apologise for the inconvenience caused by this delay. Bus users can check exactly where their bus is at anytime using the live bus tracking available on our mobile app.”