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05 Mar 2018
BUS BOSS URGES COUNCILLORS TO CONTINUE CITY CENTRE TRANSFORMATION
Local bus operator Stagecoach is urging Aberdeen City councillors to press ahead with planned changes to a city centre street, ahead of a crucial debate on Monday 5th March.
As part of the City Centre Masterplan, councillors decided in 2016 that Broad Street would be transformed into a public transport and active travel corridor, with only buses, pedestrians and cyclists able to use the street. This decision was the fundamental first step in the transformation of the city centre. However, in January 2018, Councillor Steve Delaney referred a motion to Monday's meeting of the Council, which seeks to reverse this decision in favour of full pedestrianisation.
Thousands of bus passengers across Aberdeen have experienced over a year of significant disruption whilst Broad Street has been closed, adding as much as 11 minutes (29% increase) to journey times on service 727, which operates between the city centre and Aberdeen Airport. Bus operators support the Council's established policy of reducing car traffic in the city centre. The Council has agreed a number of ambitious targets to improve the city centre environment, and bus services are key to achieving these aims. One bus on the service 727 route can take up to 74 cars away from using the road.
Broad Street is a strategically important thoroughfare in the city centre. The street provides access to retailers, leisure facilities and large employment centres such as Police Scotland, the Town House and Marischal College. Thousands of people every day use Broad Street to access work, local facilities or to enjoy attractions such as Marischal College, Provost Skene House or the new Marischal Square development. A large proportion of those travelling to Broad Street and the surrounding area do so by bus. As such, the street represents a major interchange for bus services operating from across the city. Some businesses local to the area have cited the extended closure of Broad Street to be costing them tens of thousands of pounds in lost income.
Councillor Delaney's motion refers to concerns from those with mobility issues and visual impairments, arguing that a shared space between buses and pedestrians is unsafe. However, no factual evidence has been produced to support this statement. In fact, Stagecoach have decades of experience of safe operation of bus services through shared spaces, in towns and cities such as Exeter and Oxford. Statistically, accident rates in these shared spaces are actually lower than in other city centres. The key to the success of a shared space is training and education. Stagecoach has committed to councillors that its drivers will receive additional training to ensure buses can operate safely on Broad Street. The company is also engaging with other groups such as the Disability Equity Partnership in order to help address any concerns they do have and reassure them of the work that they will do with staff in order to ensure that the shared space brings about the benefits that are envisaged.
Ahead of Monday's debate, Stagecoach Managing Director Mark Whitelocks has urged councillors to maintain the overall vision of the City Centre Masterplan which keeps public transport at the heart of the city's transformation. The company hopes that councillors will agree to conclude the Broad Street construction works as soon as possible so bus services can return to their normal routes, for the benefit of bus passengers across the city.
Mark Whitelocks, Managing Director for Stagecoach North Scotland said: "We are committed to attracting more people to travel by bus in the city centre and our award-winning Jet 727 service needs to be able to serve the many local businesses around the Broad Street area. People with mobility issues or visual impairments rely on our fully accessible fleet of buses to connect them to key areas of Aberdeen city, such as Broad Street, and the proposition of taking buses away from this area will only make the area less accessible for anyone visiting, not just those with mobility issues."