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NEWSLETTER No 66 SUMMER - September 2014

Dear Members

It is now over 13 months since we had to withdraw our service from Luton Borough Council (LBC). We have now completed our massive internal change and we are still here! We have won some new contracts and have now turned the corner and are taking on new staff as we rebuild. To use a gardening analogy, “our plant has had a severe pruning, remains healthy, and is growing again with new shoots appearing”. Pulling out of Luton BC is no longer the big news at South Beds Dial-a-Ride as we get busier doing other things, like building new services in the town.

NEW ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP FEES

Since we started collecting the £10 annual membership fee, we are delighted as all our regular passengers have rejoined us. There will be some others who only travel infrequently so they will be asked to rejoin when they next travel. We thank you all very much for your continuing support.

 

STAFFING AND OFFICE MANNING

Brian recently joined us to help as we were winning new contracts. Now sadly (for us – maybe not so sadly for Brian) he is about to undertake a lifestyle change and move away from the area. Brian will be leaving us in the next month or so but fear not, we have already found Brian’s replacement, a familiar face to some of you already, but more about this next time.

As demand for our service varies so much, we felt the need to add to our flexibility by adding a second part-time driver, Irene, to our team. Irene likes to be called “iRen” (you ask her how to say it!) and has many years of experience (like Maureen, our other part-time driver) in various ambulance services. I’m sure you will laugh along with Irene/iRen when you meet her.

One downside of having to reduce our staff is that the office cannot always be manned on a continuous basis. This leaves us more reliant on answering machine to take messages. Please leave a message anytime to cancel your journeys. Please state clearly your name and either your phone number or the road you live in so we can clearly indentify you and call you back on our return. Please do not leave booking requests on the answering machine. Thank you.

 

62 BUS ROUTE

In order to raise more funds to subsidise a growing dial-a-ride service we need to take on new contracts and create an operating surplus on each. We work closely with Central Bedfordshire Council’s (CBC) Passenger Transport Department and have recently won the tender for their 62 bus route. You may remember the former 202 went from Dunstable to Harpenden via Pepperstock, including Caddington, Slip End and Ridgeway Avenue in Dunstable. Following changes in inter-county funding, CBC have managed to preserve the Pepperstock to Dunstable leg of the service.

 

The 62 is a public bus service which we operate 5 days per week to a timetable set by CBC, and it is proving very successful with more passengers using it regularly. A timetable change on September 22nd is in response to passenger feedback and will further improve the service and patronage. CBC really do value your feedback and try to introduce your suggested improvements. We now operate 3 public bus services, the 62, the 74 (Toddington and Barton and villages north of Dunstable), and the 48 Harlington-Milton Keynes.

 

DAY TRIPS

It has been difficult with a smaller, tighter staff team, and increasing demand for our services, to fit in as many day trips this summer as we and you would like. We did get to run 3 trips however, and on each occasion were surprisingly unable to fill the bus. Some passengers who had indicated their wish several weeks in advance to go on a trip, then dropped out at the last minute, and we were unable to fill the bus from the stand-by list as many had, by then, made other arrangements. We don’t mind breaking even on such trips, but as they are not the main reason for our service and tie up a bus and a driver for most or all of a day, we do not like to run them at a loss. This might explain a little why we did not add more this summer.

 

WHAT ARE WE NOW DOING IN LUTON?

Contrary to popular held opinion in Luton, South Beds Dial-a-Ride IS still offering a dial-a-ride in the town, and is doing so without any financial support from Luton BC. Our service is expanding as word grows that we are still available to serve the town, albeit on a chargeable basis.

 

NEW SERVICES for GROUPS & INDIVIDUALS

We are slowly introducing other new services aimed at specific needs.

The first new service is for group transport, where we take organised groups of people from one destination to another destination, e.g. a group from a senior people’s housing area like to go out for a pub lunch each month. We also collect other groups and take them into their lunch clubs and on day trips.

The second new service is for special individual bookings where passengers find it difficult to source suitable transport to a destination they must go to, e.g. to a funeral or a hospital or clinic appointment outside our operating area. The bus and driver are effectively hired for exclusive use for a period of time, at an appropriate charge including time and mileage.

We will consider anything legal which fits our skills and organisation, to provide services to raise extra funds for performing dial-a-ride journeys, whilst still delivering our main service to the elderly and disabled.

 

CENTRAL BEDFORDSHIRE FARES

After 3.5 years of the same fare per passenger per journey, we have recently applied to CBC for a modest increase in each fare and await CBC’s decision.

 

COFFEE MORNING

Our next coffee morning is planned to be held on Saturday 29th November. It will again be held at the usual place at Red House Court in Houghton Regis, and will this time be open to residents of Red House Court (for a small charge) as a compromise with CBC, who decided to introduce a charge for the space we use.

All Luton and Central Beds members all welcome. Cost of entry and transport is £4 for all those using our buses, payable to your driver.

Thank you for your continued support, and see you all soon.

 

Compiled by Dave Barratt - 22/9/14

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