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Has the new X69 bus improved journeys between Peterhead and Fraserburgh? I find out

Join me on a journey from Aberdeen to Peterhead and Fraserburgh to speak to businesses and locals as I find out if bus services are really as bad as people say.

I caught the x69 from Peterhead to Fraserburgh to see what the journey was really like. Images: Lauren Taylor / DC Thomson
I caught the x69 from Peterhead to Fraserburgh to see what the journey was really like. Images: Lauren Taylor / DC Thomson

The bus between Fraserburgh and Peterhead was once dubbed one of the “worst” services in Scotland.

The journey between the two large Buchan towns was ranked so high because of the expensive tickets and protracted journeys.

Last summer, Stagecoach decided to change up the timetable, introducing a brand new service called the X69 to provide a more direct route between the two.

But, like most places across the north-east, people have still been complaining about unreliable services and sharing their fury online at last-minute cancellations.

I wanted to see what bus services across Buchan were really like, especially the new and hopefully improved X69 bus between Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

My three tickets — I could have bought a day rider but I wanted to see what each journey was actually like.

So, I took three different buses; one from Aberdeen to Peterhead, and then from Peterhead to Fraserburgh, and finally from Fraserburgh back to Aberdeen.

While on my tour of Buchan I chatted to passengers and businesses in both the towns to find out what they really thought and if the service was as bad as people online say.

Read on to find out about:

  • My own experience getting the bus from Aberdeen to Peterhead and Fraserburgh 
  • What people in Peterhead and Fraserburgh think about the disruption
  • How people are being forced to cancel dentist appointments and miss hospital appointments
  • And if the new X69 service makes a difference to what was once dubbed the ‘worst’ bus journey in the whole of Scotland

A slight delay getting from Aberdeen to Peterhead

I’m one of those people who likes to be there early when travelling.

So after a slightly manic rush to make sure I had everything I needed, I got to Union Square with enough time to grab a coffee, figure out where the bus would be and wait for it.

While standing at stance 5, the overhead screen suddenly changed and said the X60 bus to Peterhead at 8.45am was cancelled.

I had a quick scan of X (aka Twitter) and saw Stagecoach had tweeted about the cancellation, but there was no information about why.

The board showed another service going to Peterhead leaving around 9am, which wasn’t too bad a wait — despite the chilly morning.

And a little bit of confusion for passengers…

Soon enough, a coach pulled into the stance and a few people suddenly gathered round, ready to get on and warm up.

However, the drivers appeared to be arguing over the bus, and it was being taken off the route to be used in Aberdeen instead.

But no one told us what was happening, so the five of us resigned to wait and see what happened.

We were all waiting to pile onto the coach, but the sign read “not in service”.

Luckily, about 1o minutes later, we were shown to a bus waiting at stance 6 — I was quite pleased to see it was another one of the big yellow coaches with cosy leather seats.

Once we piled on, we were finally off and more people joined on King Street and in other towns along the way. I’m sure they were probably waiting a good while without knowing what was going on just like we were.

The single ticket from Aberdeen to Peterhead on the X60 cost £9.80. 

People in Peterhead ‘not happy with bus service at all’

We pulled into Peterhead just after 10.20am and arrived at an almost empty bus station, so I took a walk along Queen Street.

The colourful backdrop of the Peterhead Interchange.

One woman, who did not want to be named, was waiting for the number 83 bus when she told me the services “haven’t been great” lately.

She said the 83 bus sometimes doesn’t run and people are left standing wondering if a bus is coming or not.

“I’ve got a tracker on my phone,” she explained. “I try and track the buses and there was one time one didn’t come so I called the Interchange.

“They said the buses don’t all come up on the tracker. I thought ‘what’s the point of that?’

“Peterhead is not happy with the bus service at the moment. No — we’re not happy with the service at all.”

The bus station and town centre were well signposted.

Peterhead buses not turning up force people to cancel appointments

Soon a couple of buses pulled into the stop we were standing in.

Samantha Alksne got off one of the buses, pushing a buggy while holding her toddler’s hand.

The 26-year-old told me that some of the drivers are “very good” but many times the card readers don’t work.

While some drivers don’t mind letting her on, others have asked her and the young kids to get off. But, she says the buses are unreliable and she has been left waiting with her children for “hours”.

She added: “My mother-in-law works in Boddam and she regularly takes the bus to work. But on Sundays, only the smaller buses run and they don’t have the card reader.

“She has the MegaRider but she’s been asked to leave the bus or pay for a new ticket because of this.

“And, my husband goes to the dentist in Fraserburgh. He takes the bus there because he doesn’t drive, and there have been times we’ve had to cancel the appointment because the bus didn’t turn up.”

Lack of accessible seats on coaches impacts people

To warm up a bit I headed for the Symposium cafe and as I was getting a coffee I chatted to barista Emma Stephen.

The 26-year-old now drives and doesn’t need to rely on the bus anymore, but she says people complain about the service “all the time” — either because it’s late or it just hasn’t shown up.

Emma Stephen says people are “always” complaining about the buses.

People often come in past the coffee shop instead of waiting out in the cold. And it was when I was speaking to Emma, that I realised the coach I had been so happy to see wasn’t actually the best option for everyone.

“Some of the buses run pretty regularly, which is good because in other towns I’ve been to there are hours in between them,” she explained.

“But the Aberdeen bus, because you have to go up the stairs to get a seat and there’s only two downstairs, that impacts people.

“Me and my friends would go through on the bus and often older or disabled people would have to go away and wait for the next one because the two [accessible] seats were already taken.”

‘They just don’t turn up… yet bus fares are going up’

It was time for me to head back for my second journey of the day, and the bus station was a bit busier now.

Jeannette Strachan is waiting at the station with her dog Cooper, and she told me she had already been waiting for more than 30 minutes.

The first bus she was waiting on didn’t show up, and the next one was supposed to leave at 11.40am but still wasn’t there 10 minutes on. We looked at the timetable and the next one wasn’t due for another 40 minutes.

There were a few more people at the Peterhead bus station when I returned.

Jeannette’s son stays in Aberdeen and she has a lot of hospital appointments to get to, so she often catches the bus into the city.

But, there was one particular morning when three buses to Aberdeen got cancelled one after the other due to a “technical issue”.

She said: “It’s been a problem for a few years, they just don’t turn up, they don’t advertise it, they don’t update the app or anything. Yet bus fares are going up and we’re just not getting the service — well, an adequate service.

“If people don’t get to university or college on time they’ll get chucked off their course for being late. And there’s heaps of folk with hospital appointments they’re missing too.”

A quick, but quiet, bus ride from Peterhead to Fraserburgh

The X69 bus rolled into the station and I got on alongside five other people.

It was another one of those big, yellow coaches that I had been so happy to see the first time around.

Bus two out of three – the x69 to Fraserburgh.

It only takes 30 minutes or so to drive the 17-mile journey between the Blue Toon and the Broch.

However, the bus used to take over an hour and 20 minutes because it would go in past villages like Crimond.

But now the X69 goes directly between the two towns, shortening the journey to around 35 minutes.

A single between Peterhead and Fraserburgh cost £7.30.

We set off just before 12.10pm, and while it was a smooth and quick ride for me, a couple got off before we reached Fraserburgh and the bus felt pretty empty.

We pulled into Fraserburgh at 12.45pm.

‘Not everyone has X/Twitter’ to keep up with bus cancellations

The small bus station on Hanover Street wasn’t as busy either, so I made a beeline for town centre.

Caitlin Bruce was waiting at the Saultoun Square bus stop and we got chatting about the service in Fraserburgh.

She said the town service is a “hit or a miss” because they’re usually either early or late.

Caitlin pointed me to the little easy-to-miss electronic sign next to the bus shelter. It was a shame to see it wasn’t working.

The mum said she’s also waited up to 45 minutes with her pram outside for the bus to go to Aberdeen.

“I feel like they’re quite unreliable,” she explained. “And it’s more of a hassle getting a bus to Peterhead now because I have to fold down the pram and I can’t carry it upstairs.

“And not everyone has Twitter (X), my friend will keep me updated on the buses because that’s the only place where they post any changes. They’ve got some electronic signs about, and they should put the changes on there.”

Caitlin also said while it’s better to have a more direct bus going between Peterhead and Fraserburgh she does “feel sorry” for people living in areas like St Fergus because limited services go through the villages now.

Do you think there’s a problem with the bus service in your area? Let us know in the comments section below

However, George Patterson said he uses the bus to Aberdeen sometimes, because he has a bus pass.

George Patterson says he is happy with the service provided.

“It’s handy and it’s free,” he said. “There’s one that goes straight to Aberdeen that only takes an hour and 20 minutes, or there’s one that goes through Strichen that takes two hours.

“But they’re quite regular and reliable.”

Bus links ‘should be better’ because there’s no rail link in Fraserburgh

Ian Dyga, who owns R&S Dyga with his wife Ainsley, said he thinks there should be “better transport” for the area.

The couple don’t drive and find it easy enough to walk around Fraserburgh, but they do rely on buses to get them to the surrounding area, like St Combs, and into Aberdeen.

Ian Dyga thinks transport in the area should be “top of the priority list”.

Ian thinks the bus services have been worse since Covid, which is when the timetables were changed.

“If you’re planning a day trip it’s impossible,” he said. “There should be better buses because we’re the furthest away town from a train station.

“We always leave two buses early, so if we miss one we can get the next, but you have to plan that in advance, which you shouldn’t.”

But, Ainsley stressed there was only one time they were waiting for the Aberdeen bus and it didn’t turn up.

She said: “It’s a shame there’s not a better transport link because there would be visitors coming from Aberdeen.

“And if you’re nae using it, you’re losing it — but then if it’s not there in the first place how can you use it?”

Local hospitality, retail and tourism misses out due to unreliable bus links

As I was chatting to the couple, they explained most taxi services stop around 6pm and the last buses going to the surrounding villages are quite early too — meaning young people can’t go out and people with jobs might struggle to get home.

Shaking her head Ainsley added: “The links are pretty chronic.”

They run the beautiful and quirky gift shop.

The pair agreed this has an impact on hospitality, retail and tourism in the area — especially when the lack of buses means visitors can’t get to places like Pennan.

And Ainsley believes it “makes sense” to build rail links in Fraserburgh, but says there needs to be public transport to back it up.

“Yes the Broch is lovely, with the beach and the independent shops, but there needs to be the whole package so people can explore the area,” she finished.

Again, the bus station was well signposted in Fraserburgh too.

And a delayed journey back to Aberdeen

It was time to catch my third, and final, bus to get back to Aberdeen and again I got there early enough.

By then, I was feeling the cold after walking around the streets and was quite looking forward to getting onto a cosy coach.

But it wasn’t until the man next to me burst out “You’re f***ing JOKING?!” that I realised my bus home — the X67 at 3.30pm — had been cancelled.

And there was no warning from Stagecoach Bluebird on X about it either.

My fellow passenger declared he was off for a pint before storming off.

I managed to spot the LED timetable through the window.

There was an X68 leaving for Aberdeen in 48 minutes, which wouldn’t have been so bad if there was a warm place to wait it out, but the bus station closed at 1pm.

I decided to go for a walk since there was no real time to go and sit inside anywhere to get a heat.

And by the time I got back to the bus station the big yellow coach was pulling up to the stop and people eager to get on board started gathering around.

I think we were all relieved to see the bus pull up to our stop.

A single from Fraserburgh to Aberdeen cost £12.70.

This was the busiest bus I’d been on, especially because it stopped past schools and the college.

But, other than the delay, the radiators were thankfully on full blast and it was a smooth, scenic ride back to Aberdeen.

In conclusion: has the updated route between Peterhead and Fraserburgh made a difference?

As I mentioned, Stagecoach updated the route just last summer after listening to customer feedback.

While the Peterhead to Fraserburgh bus was the only service that wasn’t disrupted for me in any way, I heard from plenty other people that it isn’t always smooth sailing.

I do think it was quick and comfortable, even if it was a really quiet service — although I can understand the lack of accessible seats could be off-putting to others.

The x69 Peterhead to Fraserburgh bus was pretty empty.

After experiencing the cancellations, and delays, first-hand and speaking to other people it was made clear there’s a wider issue with buses in the Buchan area, whether that’s going to Aberdeen or more locally.

And while buses are often getting cancelled, there appears to be other services running that aren’t too much of a wait most of the time.

But, I think the biggest problem is still the lack of communication — with buses being cancelled last minute, the app not updating and some buses not even appearing on the trackers.

A spokeswoman from Stagecoach North Scotland said: “Stagecoach is committed to keeping local communities connected.  We recognise that our customers regrettably experienced delays or cancellations on a small number of services on March 6, and we apologise for the inconvenience caused.

“The majority of journeys continued to operate as scheduled, however, there were some short-term changes as a result of vehicle and staff availability. All service changes are communicated on our website each day.”

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