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NEWSLETTER No 59 WINTER - December 2011

Dear Members,

“Winter draws on”. Here we go again, with threats of ice and snow and high winds and everything else our lovely British climate can throw at us. We plough on regardless, and will only stop when it is not safe to carry on.

We will close down for the holiday season about 4:30pm on Friday 23rd December until 8am on Tuesday 3rd January. However, we will continue to operate the public bus route (71) during the holiday period. We all wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

WHY SHOULD YOU SUPPORT OUR NEW BUS ROUTES?

Some of you seem concerned that the new bus route services we are taking on will prevent us from doing Dial-a-Ride journeys for the elderly and disabled. The opposite is in fact true, and I had hoped that our last newsletter (no. 58 in August) helped explain this in detail. If you have not read a copy of the last newsletter, please let us know. Meanwhile, here is a further explanation why we need to do new additional and different services.

South Beds Dial-a-Ride is generously grant funded by both Luton BC and Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC). Houghton Regis Town Council also make a valuable contribution, and we are seeking assistance from others too. However, in the current difficult economic conditions, councils are under greater pressure than ever to cut their spending. It is a fact that Dial-a-Ride services are a non-statutory (or discretional) cost to the councils. In other words they are not compelled legally to support us. Councils are legally compelled as a statutory requirement to provide children to school transport services, for example.

However, our supporting councils do recognise the importance of supporting vulnerable adults and are doing all they can to avoid reducing our grant funding. They do understand that a reduction in funding would cause a direct reduction in members transported in their area. CBC are being particularly supportive by allowing us to bid to run rural public bus services where communities would become isolated if there was no bus service at all. This is an invaluable source of income for us as it not only covers its own costs, but ALSO creates a surplus for us to support dial-a-ride services. The Route 71 started in July and helped us recruit a new driver AND put on all the day trips you have enjoyed since August when it started, plus additional dial-a-ride journeys on the other two non-public days.

We are aiming to help CBC even more in the future by offering further public services, and have just been successful again with winning the Route 74 from Barton-le-Clay to Dunstable which starts in January 2012. I am sure more will follow over the next year or two as council budgets have to be balanced and include new savings. All in all, these new services are to be welcomed as they benefit everyone, the council, the public, us, and therefore you.

WHY DO WE ASK YOU TO CHECK THE AFTERNOON BEFORE?

We are running very close to our capacity. We do try to squeeze as many journeys in as we can and ask for your flexibility and understanding. We understand you have little control over the timing of doctor’s and similar appointments, but supermarkets are open all day so a trip there could easily be at an alternative time.

For a while now we have been operating a system of “Request then Check”. You call us to request a booking, and we ask you to call back again the AFTERNOON before your journey to check the pick time and availability. We will either:-

  1. Confirm times close to those requested;
  2. Offer alternative times if available;
  3. Offer another day;
  4. Apologise for not having a suitable seat in a vehicle going in your direction at the time you request. This is rare!

You really MUST call again to check the afternoon before, after 1pm. If you fail to do so, your seat may be allocated to someone else as we may think you do not need it.

We do try to carry as many members as possible, and we receive a constant stream of calls for new journey requests. We make our journey plans as late as possible, which is the day before you travel so we can accommodate as many of you as possible. The drivers’ journey sheets are usually ready about lunchtime the day before, so we ask you to call and check in after 1pm the AFTERNOON before your journey. If you call before 1pm, this only slows us down and we will not be ready even for 1pm. PLEASE wait until the afternoon to check. Thank you.

IMPACT OF £1:50 FARE IN CENTRAL BEDS

During the public consultation at the end of last year, even though 95% or respondents said they would prefer to pay a fare than have the service cut, and that £1:50 was the preferred fare, there has been a distinct reduction in the number of journeys made by CBC residents. Both The Buzzer (Dial-a-Ride) in Leighton Buzzard, and ourselves have seen about 25% fewer journeys undertaken by CBC residents. We understand that the increase in charges at Day Centres has also contributed to this, but this is a cause for concern for the council. It also means we Dial-a-Rides have a lower fare income as we are now carrying fewer people.

Fortunately our members in Luton are helping by travelling more, as mentioned in previous newsletters, so we are OK for now.

DAY TRIPS

We shall continue to offer day trips out of our area. During the dark winter months we will be less ambitious as you really need to be indoors in places which are warm and light, so we will concentrate on pub lunches and indoor attractions for a while. The problem is many indoor attractions have an entry fee so we have to be selective to keep your costs down. If you have any suggestions please let us know.

COFFEE MORNING

Our last Coffee Morning in November was a great success yet again with almost 60 attendees. We also celebrated our 25th Anniversary with a giant cake in the shape of a minibus, and dedicated a minibus to the memory of Mike Tilley, my very successful predecessor as Coordinator. We were very grateful to Mike’s sister Margaret who kindly travelled down from Derbyshire to help with our ceremonies.

E-MAIL ADDRESSES

We are compiling a list of e-mail addresses so we can send you newsletters, information on day trips and other useful information quickly and cheaply. The postal system just costs too much. If you do not have e-mail, please tell us the e-mail address for a member of your family so we can send information for them to pass on to you. Our address for e-mail is admin@southbeds.dial-a-ride.info.

Compiled by Dave Barratt – Coordinator

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