Fife expands ring & ride bus service for OAPs with £240,000 of new, improved vehicles
Fife's "ring-and-ride" service is to be expanded ensuring elderly and vulnerable people can get around in all corners of the Kingdom.
New and improved Fife Bus vehicles worth £240,000 will begin operating from April 2022 with accessible lifts and spaces for wheelchair users.
It is designed to allow people unable to use public transport to visit the shops, see friends and attend doctor's appointments, and differs from Fife's dial-a-bus schemes, which travel to pre-determined drop-off points only. Patrons can request pick-ups as they would with a taxi, specifying a time to be picked up and a destination.
Under the new plans approved by councillors, the dial-a-buses have been scrapped.
Around £101,000 will be spent preparing the new scheme this year. It will cost around £371,000 annually to run, creating 13 jobs in the process to deal with the extra vehicles and demand.
Cllr David Ross, Labour co-leader of the council, said: "By expanding the Fife Bus we will offer improved services to meet council objectives, aid recovery, and provide fairer transport for all Fifers.”
His SNP counterpart Cllr David Alexander added: "The Fife Bus Service is key to facilitating social connection, supporting independent living and enabling access to local shops and health and community services and is highly valued by its vulnerable clients.”
Fife's policy and co-ordination committee heard on Thursday [May 13] that the service will be more equally available for people across the region, having previously only operated across the towns of Leven, Dunfermline, Glenrothes and Kirkcaldy.
Each of the 16 zones contains a number of towns and villages and will operate on certain days of the week in each area in order to balance demand. However, it is not a replacement for long-distance transport. Those wishing to travel from one end of Fife to the other would have to do so in several stages.
Derek Crowe, council transportation services manager, said: "We have 18 zones and the primary objective is to provide service within each zone - not to travel from Tayport to Dunfermline. We cannot resource that.
"We would use somewhere perhaps like Cowdenbeath as a stepping stone - somewhere where we've got a transportation hub."
He added: "Once the roll-out of the new service is prepared we will explain that to our customers.
"But this is a much more responsive and flexible service then it's ever been before."
Some councillors are concerned that, while more equal than the old system, the new Fife Buses are still not serving all residents equally.
Areas such as the centre of Dunfermline, Glenrothes and Leven will be served six days a week. Smaller towns and rural areas will only have access to the buses two days a week.
Mr Crowe says this has been determined by gauging the level of demand. But Cllr Helen Law (Labour, Dunfermline North) said of the proposed schedule: "I would like assurances that it will be kept under review."
SNP councillor John Beare chipped in: "It shouldn't go unsaid that we are expanding a service for people unable to use conventional public transport and investing £700,000.
"It's something we should all welcome and if others want to expand this I look forward to seeing their budget proposals."