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NEWSLETTER No 62 WINTER - January 2013

Dear Members,

A Happy New Year to you all, and very many thanks for the many marks of appreciation sent to the office recently. We really are very grateful and have shared your gifts according to your wishes.

STAFF

Our luck does not seem to be improving. Kevin hoped to return to work part-time but was thwarted so we remain without him into 2013. Paul broke his leg early November and has now returned to work at the end of January. Now Brendan is off also on crutches! We hope 2013 will be much kinder to us than 2012 as we have effectively (on average) been more than one driver down for 9 months last year. We really do owe a great debt of thanks to those who maintained our service at our usual level. The constant internal daily juggling, and the agency drivers from Extrastaff who have been almost full time recently! They have all done a great job.

FINANCIAL CLIMATE

The generalities of the country’s economic difficulties are really beginning to bite. We have incurred huge extra costs to cover illness and injury. The general rises in fuel and other items we need to buy have had a major affect on our budget and we are heading for a very significant financial loss this year. We cannot sustain such losses.

The councils who support us are having to make massive savings themselves so are not in a position to raise their levels of support, yet demand for our service continues to grow. We have thrown everything at it we can to meet this demand, but cannot continue to do so. We are not the bottomless pit of drivers and buses that some authorities may think we are when they tell passengers they cannot carry to “go to Dial-a-Ride”.

2 JOURNEYS PER WEEK

Whenever we think we are operating at full capacity, we somehow manage to squeeze even more journeys in. However, we are also taking on many new members who obviously want to book journeys too. We are getting ever closer to the rationing we have thought might be necessary. If we can fit in more than 2 return journeys per week for you we will, but please understand if we ask you to consider which of your journeys are more important as you may not get all you request in the future.

There is now no such thing as a guaranteed journey with South Beds Dial-a-Ride. We are carrying 20% more than 4 years ago, but do have a limit.

CANCELLING BOOKINGS

As every slot we have is getting more precious, it is even more important that you cancel a booking you do not need. Please give as much notice as you can so we can juggle and try to provide a journey for someone else.

CHARGING FARES IN LUTON

Luton passengers have received a totally free service for many years. We also work for Central Bedfordshire Council and you may be aware they introduced a fare of £1-50 per single journey (£3 return) in April 2011. They did this so they could make a saving in their budget but also maintain the same level of support for the very important service the dial-a-rides provide. A period of consultation is now underway as Luton BC consider introducing a charging mechanism from April 2014. No change will take place in 2013/14. This is a period of consultation and no decision has yet been made.

MEMBERSHIP FEE

For several years we have been mooting the idea of introducing an annual membership fee. We have so far resisted this extra cost to our users, but as costs continue to rise and our income remains static, we have 2 choices – either we find ways to increase our income or we reduce the size of our service. At a time when demand for our service is constantly growing we are very reluctant to cut back. Several methods are being considered from a flat annual fee, a voluntary annual fee, to a small charge for each journey. We would appreciate any feedback you can give us on what you would prefer and feel is fair.

“CONFIRM THE AFTERNOON BEFORE”

You will have noticed, as we try to cram in more journeys, that when you phone in to make a journey “request”, we then often ask you to confirm the afternoon before that you still need your journey, and we can advise you of the availability of the journey and the pick up time. On some occasions it may be that we simply have more requests than we have seats available, and we beg your understanding as we try to make the most of the resources we have. Our service cannot be guaranteed.

Please do not confuse your request for a journey and your confirmation. They are 2 stages:-

1 – Please call as early as possible, a MINIMUM of TWO whole days ahead of your journey to make your request, and…

2 – Then call after 1pm the afternoon before your journey to confirm you still wish to travel, to check availability and pick up times. Thank you.

Compiled by Dave Barratt – Coordinator

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