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Fears Blackburn will become ‘isolated’ in proposed Stagecoach bus timetable changes

Concerns have been raised about reducing bus services in Blackburn. Photo: DC Thomson/Google
Concerns have been raised about reducing bus services in Blackburn. Photo: DC Thomson/Google

Concerns have been raised some Aberdeenshire communities may be “completely cut-off” due to proposed bus timetable changes.

Stagecoach Bluebird recently announced plans to shake-up certain services across the north-east from October 31.

Although the operators says the changes aim to create faster and more efficient journeys for passengers, some locations have been completely cut off in the process.

Bus options for Blackburn residents have been significantly reduced in the plans, limiting connections to Aberdeen, Kintore and Kemnay.

A series of public consultations were held for residents to share their views with an online process also taking place.

However, there was no public meeting held in Blackburn due to a lack of time in the schedule – despite it being the village most impacted by the possible changes.

Passengers can still get in touch with Stagecoach to raise any concerns via their social media accounts or contact number.

Many depend on buses

A new bus service – the number 9 – has been proposed as the only option for residents to travel from Blackburn to Aberdeen.

It will leave from the Leys Hotel stop and travel to the city via Aberdeen Royal Infirmary 13 times a day during the week between 5.55am and 6.35pm.

One 10B will go from Blackburn to Aberdeen at 11.13pm between Monday and Friday.

East Garioch councillor Glen Reid. Picture by Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

East Garioch councillor Glen Reid has been actively working to make sure residents are aware of the proposed changes and shared constituents’ concerns with the bus company.

“Blackburn will become isolated,” he said. “I don’t think Stagecoach fully appreciated what the effect would be on these little towns.

“I went to the consultation at Kemnay Village Hall. It was a small room but the room was full. I’d already asked Stagecoach if they’d have another at Blackburn but they said they didn’t have time in their schedule.

“If people who use the bus can’t get out of their hometown, it seems ridiculous that the place affected the most doesn’t get a consultation. There are so many people who are dependent on these buses, especially those with the university connection.”

Limited university connections

Blackburn resident Louise Allan relies on the bus to get to her work at Aberdeen University.

If the proposed timetables are approved, she will have to take two different buses to work – a change which will also impact university students.

The 43-year-old said she was “dumbfounded” by the proposed changes and has been working with the community centre to print posters to spread the word.

King’s College at Aberdeen University in Old Aberdeen. Picture by Colin Rennie/DC Thomson.

“They’re cutting off the whole village basically,” she said. “Our side of town seems to be missed out more and more.

“One day the bus didn’t come and there were seven people waiting. So, if they’re saying we’re not using the service, that’s clearly not the case. Every time I get off the bus there’s somebody else getting off too, if not two or three.

“I have no idea how they can justify this.”

Blackburn removed from routes

Ms Allan currently gets the X20 bus to and from work but Blackburn will be completely removed from the route from October 31 if the changes are approved.

She continued: “Even if they could give us one stop in Blackburn, if you’re using the bus you’ll know when it’s coming. They’re quoting it takes seven minutes to go through the village. Trying to save that time by cutting off a lot of people seems pretty sad.

“Putting on one bus an hour makes much more sense, I don’t know why they’d want to stop it completely.”

Mr Reid added: “I think the argument Stagecoach has made is that it’s not well utilised lately, but the university isn’t back properly until September/October.

“There are lots of students who will need to get into university. Covid has affected them and they’ve done a lot of learning online. But they’re now back in person and having proper classes. They need to analyse the people who will be using it now.”

Impact on school pupils

Blackburn is also due to lose connections to nearby Kintore and Kemnay, which many school pupils rely on to get to Kemnay Academy.

The proposed new timetables show no direct journeys between Blackburn and Kemnay.

Mr Reid highlighted that academy pupils’ only transport option will be the school bus at the start and end of the school day.

Bucksburn residents attend Kemnay Academy. Picture by Colin Rennie/DC Thomson.

He said: “As it stands, under these proposals, a pupil who misses their school bus won’t be able to get to Kemnay unless a parent drives them.

“If they are a senior pupil on study leave and they don’t start first thing in the morning, they have no choice but to go on the school bus. They also can’t leave school early as there are no other connections.

“The school has just gone back so there’s a whole swathe of new pupils that will come to Kemnay Academy, making new friendships. If one lives in Blackburn and one lives in Kemnay, they won’t be able to directly connect. Despite the fact they’ve got a bus pass.

“Kemnay, Kintore and Blackburn don’t have a lot of community facilities, they’re all based at the Academy. Any kind of after-school club you can’t do if you live in Blackburn because you can’t get home once the school bus leaves.

“It isolates a whole swathe of pupils.”

Efficient bus service is ‘vital’

Meanwhile, the 10B and 10C buses will go from Blackburn to Kintore just six times a day on weekdays.

These buses leave Blackburn at 7.51am and 8.51am, then not again until 7.34pm, 8.49pm, 10.49pm and 11.54pm.

Stagecoach has proposed timetable changes in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

Ken McEwan, former chairman of Kintore Community Council, has said it is “vital” to have a bus service connecting the communities.

He added: “Kintore is one of the 10 largest towns in Aberdeenshire. It is also a vibrant business centre with four business parks including Midmill and Thainstone.

“These parks have businesses in the oil and gas, property, construction, aviation, agriculture and food sectors.

“For the community and these businesses, it is vital that we have an efficient bus service that connects Kintore and its rail station with neighbouring towns and Aberdeen.”

Response from Stagecoach

Stagecoach Bluebird is in the process of finalising the new timetables and will publish updated versions before the end of the month.

A spokeswoman said: “We are working hard to provide the best networks we can for local communities in the current challenging environment by developing a sustainable future bus network for the region.

“We have carried out a comprehensive public consultation process, with the intention of enabling as many people as possible to provide feedback.

“This has included holding events in a number of areas and also providing people with the opportunity to provide feedback via email and other channels.

“We welcome all feedback on our services, and this will be taken into account as part of our review process. We are currently in the process of finalising the new timetables which will be published later this month.

“Our aim is to continue providing the widest and most sustainable network we can for local communities, taking into account the new travel patterns we have seen coming out of the pandemic.”