21 January 2022

Newburgh and Balmedie area to get new enhanced digital Demand Responsive Transport service

Councillors have approved plans to fund the introduction of a proposed new ‘enhanced’ Digital Demand Responsive Transport (DDRT) service in the Newburgh/Balmedie area.

The new service, which would be operated by Stagecoach Bluebird, will complement Aberdeenshire Council’s pilot project ‘Ready2Go Around Inverurie’ which launched last year.

During their meeting on Thursday, January 20, members of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC), were reminded that Full Council had last year allocated an additional allowance of £120,000 to the local bus services budget for the expansion of DRT.

Transport operators were invited to apply for grant funding towards the operation of an enhanced DRT service including the provision and management of the back-office booking and monitoring system.

The successful funding bid will enable Stagecoach to trial an on-demand minibus service in the Newburgh/Balmedie area on Mondays to Saturdays with passengers able to book the bus by using a smartphone app or phoning the bus operator. Connections will be available for onward travel onto other Stagecoach services.

Officers said such a pilot initiative - testing the concept of an operator managing the back-office system for their own DDRT service – would complement the council’s own pilot project and will aid decisions on which model of service delivery would be most appropriate in future.

Digital DRT bus services have only recently started to be introduced in the UK and the one-year grant award of almost £135,000 will enable implementation of the first operator-led DDRT bus service in north-east Scotland.

The Ready2Go Around Inverurie on-demand bus service launched in August 2021 and operated by Watermill Coaches on behalf of the Council regularly makes over 200 passenger trips per day. The service is part of a pilot project to investigate the potential for digital demand responsive transport to replace conventional timetabled bus services and will be reviewed during Spring 2022.

ISC chair Cllr Peter Argyle said: “I very much welcome this latest service for the Newburgh and Balmedie areas which will complement our Ready2Go pilot at Inverurie. That service appears to be doing well, with positive feedback from passengers, and I am sure this new service will be equally-popular with our coastal users.”