Disabled access to a Perth to Dundee bus link will be improved following a “positive” meeting between councillors and service operators Stagecoach.
Councillor Willie Wilson from Perth and Dundee councillor Fraser Macpherson had requested the meeting as a result of complaints about the new X7 bus service linking Perth Royal Infirmary (PRI) and Ninewells Hospital. While the service was welcomed, the choice of coach came under fire as not being particularly disabled friendly.
“The meeting was constructive and led to agreement on a considerable number of small improvements to the existing bus, which I hope will help passengers with accessibility,” said Mr Wilson.
At the meeting it was agreed that a number of short-term measures could be taken to try and improve accessibility, some of which have already been progressed by the bus company.
These include alterations to the arrangements for locating wheelchairs within the coach and changes to the on-board CCTV system to allow better driver observation of people wanting to get off the bus. In addition, Stagecoach is to review the availability of handrails to assist bus passengers.
The company also said they are in discussions about making the headroom greater in the stairwell area of the coach and a review of the buzzer arrangements to alert the driver of the need to stop has already been carried out.
The opportunities for extending some journeys of the 16A bus service to PRI to provide an alternative link between the two hospitals is also to be examined.
Mr Wilson hailed the progress saying: “If we can make changes to the 16A service and allow a direct link between PRI and Ninewells using that service, it will at least provide an alternative journey for people who find it impossible to use the X7.
“In the longer term, however, we have pressed Stagecoach to provide a better form of coach on this service.”
Following the meeting, which was held in Perth, Andrew Jarvis of Stagecoach said: “I was pleased to meet Mr Wilson and Mr Macpherson to discuss the X7 and highlight the tremendous growth in customers the newly-combined X7 and 333 has generated.
“The new coaches meet all relevant accessibility legislation and are supremely comfortable vehicles to travel on.
“However, we do acknowledge that other than for two seats, the rest of the seating requires the use of steps to enable access, which some customers have expressed concerns about.
“We do operate the alternative 16A service every hour between Ninewells Hospital and Perth city centre using low-floor buses for those that struggle with steps.
“We will now work with Perth and Kinross Council to see if amendments are possible to the 16A to allow some journeys to extend beyond Perth city centre to the royal infirmary.”
Mr Macpherson added: “Stagecoach has acknowledged that there is an issue with access to the current vehicles.
“We have all agreed that this needs to be remedied and, in addition to short-term measures agreed at the meeting, we are all looking towards medium term, when more suitable buses can be introduced to the route.
“This largely depends on user numbers but if the current trend continues, then we will have a strong case to press the company to renew the coaches.”