DIRECT all-day bus services to Aberdeen from Ellon’s Meiklemill, Esslemont Circle and Auchterellon areas are set to stay – at the expense of earlier starts for some passengers and reduced services for others.
It follows a late revision by bus operator Stagecoach to planned timetable alterations. Although the 50/51 routes are to disappear, an altered 262 service from Aberdeen will now loop through Ellon on its way to the town’s Park and Ride. However, there is no reprieve for services to Castlepark, and a reduction to a single early-morning service from Knockothie.
The changes, which take effect from April 25, will allow Ellon passengers to remain on board the 262 service as the bus travels back to Aberdeen from Ellon Park and Ride via Balmedie. Through ticketing will also allow passengers to change to direct Aberdeen services at the Park and Ride.
Passengers travelling from Fraserburgh to Peterhead to Aberdeen via Ellon Park and Ride will no longer need to divert through Balmedie – a move which the company claims will maintain the current service frequency on these routes and save time.
In a statement, Stagecoach Managing Director Andrew Jarvis said that the changes to the services in the Buchan Corridor would improve reliability and in many cases actually speed up journey times for passengers.
“The changes will see all journeys on service 262 operating via Balmedie”, he said. “This maintains the current frequency of services both for Fraserburgh and Peterhead as well as for journeys from Balmedie to Aberdeen.”
“Recent discussions with Aberdeenshire Council have also allowed for some additional late night journeys on route 262 between Balmedie and Aberdeen and an extra early morning journey within Ellon which have been included in the final timetables.”
“We believe these changes will resolve the current reliability issues, however our routes are continually monitored and reviewed and we will ensure this process continues when the timetable revisions come into effect on 25th April - this will allow us again to gauge service reliability and customer use for any future developments.”
The retention of a service which allows residents to travel from their local bus stops into Aberdeen city centre before 9am is likely to be greeted with relief. David Boswall, a Meiklemill resident, spoke to the Ellon Times on Monday morning - before the timetables were finalised - as he waited for the bus to take him into Aberdeen from the estate’s Barratt Drive.
“I take the bus into Aberdeen every day for work,” he said. “If there wasn’t a service which let me do that it would be a disaster! Running it at peak times in the morning and evening is an essential thing for me and a lot of other people who use that service.
“I think it’s better if the service remains the same. It’s used regularly in the morning and at night, and I don’t see why they should be taking buses off to sake money, because that’s all they’re doing to be honest”.
Political reaction to the changes have been mixed. Councillor for Ellon and District, Debra Storr, said: “The whole thing has been pretty disastrous and still amounts to a reduction in service.
“Stagecoach is concentrating on profitable, high-volume routes, which bus deregulation allows them to do, leaving the council to subsidise unprofitable services and frantically fill the gaps, she said. “There’s an argument to redesign services which have feeder services into high speed routes, but they need to serve intermediate places at the times people want. Stagecoach have forgotten the lesson of the Beeching cuts that if you shut off the feeder routes, then ultimately, your high-speed core suffers.”
However, Mid Formartine Councillor Jim Gifford was pleased at the provision of extra evening services.
“These are pretty extensive changes, but I think this is probably the best of a bad lot. We have secured some extra evening services which is better than nothing,” he said. “All of this will be reviewed as it rolls out, so we will have to make sure that the services that are left are retained if at all possible.
“As always, it will depend on people using the services in order to secure there retention.”
Details of the new timetables are available online at www.stagecoachbus.com