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NEWSLETTER No 55 AUTUMN - October 2010

Dear Members,

Although we sometimes have selective memories, the summer that has passed was not as bad many of us want to believe.  I can also remember some lovely days back in April when we had lovely warm sunny days.  We did manage to run a few of our very popular day trips during August when some of the clubs and societies we take you to were on their summer breaks.  We would obviously like to run more trips, but we are constrained by the continually increasing demand for our service.  Hopefully we will be able to run shopping trips in December.  More of this below.

COFFEE MORNING

Our next Coffee Morning is on Saturday 20th November.  Please see the notice on all buses, and call 01525 220044 to book in.  Last time back in May the Fire Station in Dunstable gave us a wonderful large light airy room, but unfortunately this is no longer available.  Even if it was there was still the issue of the lift which was not ideal, so we have now found a new venue.  We shall be using the large room with full height windows on two sides on the ground floor of Red House Court in Houghton Regis.  This is a super space, much larger than we have had before so you can move about easier, super toilets and tailor-made for our needs.  Let us hope more of you can come along and have a good morning out.  Unfortunately we were not able to hold the Coffee Morning nearer Christmas, but hopefully next year?

DECEMBER TRIPS

Christmas Shopping trips are always popular and we are planning to run a number this year, as long as there is enough demand, as long as we have available capacity, and as long as the weather does not turn snowy and icy like it did in the week before Christmas last year. 

We are thinking about the usual popular places like Milton Keynes, good garden centres and maybe Leighton Buzzard on Market Day.  Please call the usual number to register your interest and tell us where you would prefer to visit.  We are hoping to run trips in the following dates:-

30th November    – Leighton Buzzard on market day

3rd, 6th, 13th, 20th December   – all dates and destinations to be confirmed

FUNDING CUT-BACKS IN 2011

South Beds Dial-a-Ride has been generously supported for many years by Luton BC and Central Bedfordshire Council.  In return we believe, because you keep telling us, that we provide an excellent and invaluable service to our members and their qualifying residents.

We are all aware of the difficult times we now live in with Central Government having to try to balance the books.  They are demanding savings of at least 10% per year for the next 3 years - Over 30% in total.  Councils are working very hard to find how they in turn can continue to deliver their important services with this kind of reduction in funding from the Government.  We have had a number of meetings with them, and they are very keen to try to find savings which do not affect what they call “front line services”, of which we are one.  (Care workers and social workers are other examples).  We have also heard a suggestion from central government that free travel for pensioners is being questioned.  At local level consideration is being given to the idea of withdrawing some support from the concessionary fare scheme for which you all qualify.  It is possible there may be a move away from totally free travel on our buses and a return to paying a contribution to each journey.  We are hoping this will be a small and convenient amount to find like £1 or £1-50, so we don’t slow the buses down too much while we all search for small change.  We will keep you posted of further developments.  If this idea goes ahead, it is unlikely it will be before 1st April 2011.

Central Beds Council will be performing a member consultation very soon on the subject of reducing their subsidy for concessionary fares.  Our drivers will soon be handing out questionnaires from the council for you to express your views.  These will include a reply paid envelope for you to send in your anonymous comments.  This is a very good opportunity to have a say directly to our paymasters in Central Beds with no fear.

ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP CHARGE

In previous newsletters, We have mentioned we are considering introducing an annual membership fee of about £15.  Although many of you have been kind enough to let us know you thought this was a good idea, we have not yet been able to introduce this scheme for a number of reasons.  The latest update is that we feel it best to shelve this idea for now.  As explained above in this Newsletter, if we bring in a membership fee and then the councils start charging for journeys as well, this may just be too much to pay.  We shall wait and see how our funding is affected before we look at this idea again.

BUS PASSES / SMARTCARDS

In the last Newsletter I tried to clarify some confusion but sadly created some more.  Luton and Central Beds councils have different policies, so here is further clarification. 

If you live in Luton you need to be BOTH a member of Dial-a-Ride AND you need a valid BUS PASS / SMARTCARD issued by Luton BC.  We must have record of your pass number to enable you to travel.  The Luton BC BUS PASS / SMARTCARD is the same for Dial-a-Ride and normal public buses which you find difficult or impossible to use.  The cards are numbered 6335970100********.  Luton passes will have “+C” in the top right hand corner if you are authorised to take a carer with you at the same fare rate.

If you live in Central Bedfordshire County the requirement is different.  Central Bedfordshire has 2 different types of Travel Permit.  Everyone over the age of retirement may have a National Concessionary Travel Permit though this is not compulsory.   A member of South Beds Dial-a-Ride must have a DIAL-A-RIDE PERMIT, (numbered 20****).

Wherever you live however, it seems only fair that if you can use public transport you should do so, and allow our service to help those who find they can no longer use public transport.

BUSY! BUSY! BUSY!

We are experiencing unprecedented demand for membership and journeys.  We are all working very hard to satisfy this demand, which is currently about 30% up on last year!!  This is a massive increase in one year, and we still have the same number of drivers and buses.   This is applying pressure in a number of ways. 
- The telephone booking line is much busier.

- We are having to plan our daily routes as late as we can to take account of the constantly changing situation, so we do not set our bus journeys until the day before travel.

- So as we juggle all the travel times to try to fit everybody in, this is why we may ask you to phone back the day before your journey to verify your pick up times.

- We must ask you to cancel as soon as you know you do not need your booking to give someone else a chance of travelling.

- We may need to consider rationing access to the service to 1-2 return journeys per week, to allow more members to gain some access to the service.

- We are not accepting any NEW regular bookings at this time.  Please phone in for each journey.

- As we have fewer gaps and more requests it might mean we regret we cannot satisfy every request.

- We really do need everyone to try to be ready 10 minutes either way as there could then be over 20 people using the bus later that day who can be made late by one late person in the morning.

FLEXIBILITY PLEASE?

- We are asking some of you to be more flexible with the time and day of travel, especially for your shopping and some social journeys.  Obviously medical and dental appointments are at set times and we do give them priority, and lunch clubs have to happen at lunchtime.  However if you are shopping or visiting friends we may ask you to change your day or times to a quieter time when we have less demand.  This is often in the middle of the day.

- We have many members calling our bookings desk for journeys on the same day, or the next day.  We need to plan our journeys to pick up as many people as possible so we need at least TWO days notice.  Please plan ahead.

- Many people call us asking for a “car” to pick them up at a certain time.  If you need to travel alone and wish for a direct journey to your destination then you need a taxi and pay the higher cost for this dedicated service.  Our Dial-a-Ride service is not a taxi.  Our minibuses have to pick up as many people as possible when moving around, which may require they divert to a number of places on your journey, which will obviously take longer than a direct taxi journey.

- We are looking at the possibility of asking members to adjust their journeys and group together to common destinations like the Arndale (Mall) and some supermarkets.  We are trying to fit more people in by performing fewer journeys with just one person on board, hence reducing mileage and fuel costs and be more efficient.

THANK YOU

This is a longer Newsletter than usual as we had lots of important information to pass on.  We hope you found it interesting.  Thank you for reading it and for your continued support.

Compiled by Dave Barratt – Coordinator

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