Aberdeen’s biggest bus operators have joined forces to voice concern to the city council for progressing at short notice with their plans to close Union Street between 0600 and 1800hrs and divert bus services down a street with no bus stops. The move will see the city centre’s seven busiest bus stops omitted by the new diversion meaning massive disruption and upheaval for passengers looking to make essential journeys.
First Aberdeen and Stagecoach Bluebird have urged the council to reconsider its proposals which they say could have a lasting effect for both public transport and the city centre itself, and gives back-word the key aspirations of the city centre masterplan which sets out to preserve the operations of buses along the full length of Union Street.
Peter Knight, Managing Director of Stagecoach Bluebird, said: “This decision is a real blow for all bus users in Aberdeen. This will create huge issues for key workers and people who rely on bus services for essential trips as well as young people and socially excluded travellers who are already being badly impacted by COVID-19.
“Aberdeen City Council is implementing this measure at very short notice, without any consultation with the bus operators or our passengers, yet this will have a far reaching and immediate impact on people and public transport right across the city.
“We fully support the need for cleaner cities and our bus services play a crucial part in that. Buses are helping to keep our country healthier with the active travel involved in walking to and from the bus stop. In the long term, only public transport has the capacity to provide the connections to support recovery in the North-east. The wrong council decisions now will damage public transport and damage the future of our region, its economy and its communities.”
Andrew Jarvis, Managing Director at First, said: “First Aberdeen are proud to be providing lifeline service that allow people to make essential travel journeys including our key workers who are keeping us all going during these unprecedented times as we all fight the spread of the Coronavirus.
“The decision to close a key section Union Street that has been taken by the council is one that has been done despite the feedback given by bus operators that this diversion would miss out the seven busiest bus stops in the city centre and cause extended journey times and further potential for delay. Serious concerns put forward by the company remain unanswered and we would urge a delay to proceedings until they are fully addressed.
“To make a decision that will make life even more difficult for people needing to use these services for essential travel during this difficult time is nothing short of putting the boot in, especially when seats on our services are already limited due to social distancing measures, for our key workers who are on the front line saving lives every day. I urge the council to reconsider their position and work with operators to provide the necessary safe spaces they seek in the city that will benefit everyone.”
Greig Mackay, Director for Bus Users Scotland, added: “Bus Users fully understands that Aberdeen City Council has to implement social distancing measures during the next phases of Scotland emerging from lockdown to keep people safe. Also, the proposal to restrict vehicle traffic coming into the city centre is a positive step, as a means to reducing congestion and improving air quality. However, we do have significant concerns surrounding the pedestrianised zones that are included as part of these measures, as these will have a detrimental effect on bus passengers, many of whom are key workers currently.
“The impact of this, may well be longer journey times and accessibility issues for passengers with reduced mobility, due to the diverted bus stops. Further consultation by the council which includes bus passengers as well other key stakeholders and the bus operators should be considered, in order to facilitate a more positive outcome for front line bus passengers of Aberdeen, who are travelling for essential reasons.”
Union Street will be closed to all traffic between Market Street and Bridge Street, and Upperkirkgate will be one way heading towards Broad Street only. Stops on Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate, as well as those on the closed section of Union Street, are closed.