Specialist PR consultants have been drafted in to end public fury over the Aberdeen city centre bus gates.
The North East Bus Alliance, which includes Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils, has brought in private firm Big Partnership to better explain the positives of the controversial new roads layout.
Aberdeen’s bus priority route has already been linked with reduced congestion in the city centre, as well as more people using buses – which are now running on time more often.
But their introduction by the city authority, using “experimental” traffic regulations which required little prior public consultation, has drawn ire.
The roughshod approach also brought in the ban on right-turns onto Rosemount Viaduct from Union Terrace. Another measure many appeared unaware of.
Can campaign turn around public feeling?
Now the alliance, which also lists Stagecoach Bluebird, First Aberdeen and Bain’s Coaches among its members, has enlisted Big Partnership – a public relations and crisis management company – to help people avoid the new bus gates.
And, they hope, ultimately come to embrace them.
An introductory amnesty on fines recently ended meaning motorists traversing Market Street, Guild Street and Bridge Street are now at risk of costly mistakes as they get used to the new set up.
During the grace period, the council spared people more than £1.3m in fines.
And we counted penalties totalling £2,300 in a single hour on Guild Street just after the dry-run ended.
Big Partnership’s campaign is aimed at helping drivers to escape the cameras’ glare.
The agency was commissioned by First, according to Nestrans.
Sources at Aberdeen City Council – which has its own communications team – say no public cash will be used to pay for the experts’ input.
How will they turn the tide?
Chairman of the North East Bus Alliance Robert Andrew hopes the campaign will make information about the Aberdeen city centre bus gates easier to understand.
The former Stagecoach director adds: “The success of the bus gates depends on everyone understanding how they work and making small changes to the ways they get about town.”
And this new campaign promises easy to understand communication about the new bus priority measures – the bus gates – in one place.
Watch their video launching the Aberdeen city centre bus gates campaign:
Long-term, the diversion away from Union Street is hoped to pave the way for longer-term change in Aberdeen city centre.
That could include the tram-like Aberdeen Rapid Transit buses, as the city looks to cut emissions and improve air quality.
In numbers: Aberdeen city centre bus gates
The bus priority measures are already reported to be reducing pollution and congestion.
And the bus alliance claims journey times have reduced by as much as a quarter for First and Stagecoach’s combined 600,000 monthly passengers.
First Aberdeen boss Duncan Cameron says now 95% of all his buses are now running to time – and puts that all down to the bus gates.
Already he claims there’s been a 10% rise in passenger numbers since the bus gates went live, while First Aberdeen has been offering 50% ticket prices to tempt people to “see the benefit” of the new layout.
And Mr Cameron promises savings brought about by the bus gates will be reinvested in First services to help boost footfall in the city centre and get more people on the bus.
‘Quicker and more predictable’ Aberdeen bus services
Stagecoach Bluebird, whose buses depart from the Union Square station right in the middle of the priority zone, have also attributed more of services running on time to the bus gates.
Again, the likes of the 727 route to the airport, among others, now run on time more than 95% of the time.
The simple, express service, information on the Aberdeen city centre bus gates can be found at www.getabout.org.uk.
- Meanwhile, the year-long consultation on the experimental traffic order which brought in the bus gates goes on. Find out how to take part here.
- An 84-year-old was left ‘shaken’ after being trapped in the Aberdeen city centre bus priority route
- We revealed the bus gates were coming with no public consultation – and that roads quango Transport Scotland does not believe that’s a “benefit”