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NEWSLETTER No 67 SUMMER - July 2015

Dear Members

It has been about 10 months since our last newsletter, as there is no point writing a newsletter with no news, and it has been a rather quiet phase for South Beds Dial-a-Ride. After the tumult the year before a quiet phase has been rather welcome. Some of this you might have heard before, but much is new or an update.

COFFEE MORNING

We were due to have a coffee morning on Saturday 30th May at the usual place at Red House Court in Houghton Regis. With regret we had to cancel it as we did not have enough people booked to go ahead. We hope for a better result at the next coffee morning on November 28th.

CENTRAL BEDFORDSHIRE FARES

After almost 4 years of charging the same fare for each passenger per journey, we asked Central Bedfordshire Council if we could apply a modest increase to journeys starting in Dunstable, Houghton Regis and surrounding villages. From January 2015, a journey ending west of the M1 now costs £2 each way (£4 return). A journey finishing east of the M1 (the Luton side) now costs £2.50 each way (£5.00 return).

ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP FEES

It is about a year since we introduced this new charge. For some of you this means our drivers shall shortly be asking you to renew your annual memberships. You need take no action but just wait to be reminded, and pay the driver on the bus. Thank you for your continuing support.

STAFFING AND OFFICE MANNING

As mentioned in our last newsletter a familiar face has rejoined us after a long absence. Geoff Evans was a familiar face to many of you, and he came back in November and slotted right back in almost as if he’d never been away. 

It is still the case that the office cannot always be manned on a continuous basis. To reduce costs of hiring in agency staff, and to maintain flexibility and provide a service to as many people as possible, our General Manager will sometimes be found driving a bus, so it does mean there will not always be a human answering your calls.

This leaves us more reliant on answering machine to take messages. Please leave a message anytime to cancel a journey. Please state clearly your name and phone number so we can indentify you and call you back on our return. Please do not leave booking requests on the answering machine. We WILL call you back to take all the details. Thank you.

74 BUS ROUTE

This route came to the end of its contracted period at the end of March. We were lucky (or skilful) enough to win the tender for the replacement service against stiff competition, albeit at a slimmed down level of service and reduced income. The “new” 74 still operates 6 days per week and now only serves Toddington to Dunstable via the villages of Wingfield and Tebworth. The previous loops around Salters Way/French’s Avenue, the Sundons, Chalton, Fancott, Barton-le-Clay and UTC in Houghton Regis have been cut.

62 BUS ROUTE

With the changes to the “new” 74, it gave Central Bedfordshire Council (who commission and pay for the service) and ourselves the opportunity to expand the successful 62 service to offer a new Saturday service. On a Saturday this currently starts and finishes at The Halfway House, near Tesco at Skimpot, into Dunstable.

We continue to operate 3 public bus services in total, the 74, the 62, and the 48 Harlington-Milton Keynes on a Tuesday.

DAY TRIPS

It is 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 last summer, and on each occasion were surprisingly unable to fill the bus. 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 cannot run them at a loss. We must fill the bus.

We have arranged a trip to Stoke Bruerne for a Wednesday in late July or early August, so are hoping that will fill quickly.

We may also try to run some Tea and Cake rides during summer afternoons to Bluebells Tea Rooms at the Grand Union Canal and Tring Reservoirs at Marsworth, plus other venues. Please register your interest by calling 01525 220044., so we may assess interest.

CONFIRMATION OF BOOKINGS

A number of members call to confirm bookings before we have all plans in place for the following day. We ask you to call AFTER 2pm PLEASE the day before travel to confirm your booking. Calling before 2pm involves us in extra phone calls and the information you require is not always ready.

We ask you to PLEASE call to confirm for 3 main reasons:-

  • To confirm you are still travelling – since you made the booking request your circumstances may have changed.
  • To check the time of collection and return we have been able to arrange. We have many people to try to fit in, and we cannot always allocate exactly the time you requested.
  • To make any adjustments to timings or destinations, or correct any errors while we still have time to do so, before the drivers leave for their runs on the day.

LOST PROPERTY

We do occasionally find passengers have left something behind on our buses. Unfortunately the 2 walking sticks we currently have in our office have no names on them so we cannot return them until claimed. If you have mislaid a blue or black stick, please let us know.

SPECIAL SERVICES for GROUPS

SPECIAL SERVICES for INDIVIDUALS

We are now offering a group transport service, where we take organised groups of people from one destination to another, e.g. a group from a senior people’s housing area who go for a pub lunch each month, or visit a garden centre, or Dunstable Downs. If you are part of a group and would like to use this service please call us. You must be a member of your social group to use this service.

A second 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, or maybe a cultural visit. The bus and driver are effectively hired for exclusive use for a period of time, at an appropriate charge including time and mileage, e.g. we recently too one member to an hotel in London for a holiday break, and 2 others to a funeral near Stevenage. You must be a member in your own right to use this service.

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.

WHAT ARE WE NOW DOING IN LUTON?

We are still operating our dial-a-ride scheme – read on…

Contrary to the opinion still held by some, South Beds Dial-a-Ride has continually offered a dial-a-ride service in Luton for past 29 years (in December), and for the past 23 months has done so with no financial support from the council responsible for elderly people’s welfare in the town. Despite some negative publicity, our service is expanding as word gets about that we are still available to serve the elderly people of town, albeit now on a chargeable basis.

We have recently had to make a legal challenge to 2 organisations in Luton who have been telling our previous members that we are not operating any more, that that they are the “new” dial-a-ride service, and the dial-a-ride phone number has changed. Our legal challenge is aimed at stopping them from making such claims. THESE CLAIMS ARE ALL UNTRUE. Please call us if you are in any doubt. We are still here to help you.

Compiled by Dave Barratt - 13/7/15

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