A meeting was held last evening, Monday 30th January 2006, with the Consultants who have been employed by SBC to investigate and consult upon the considered needs of the community of Maxton Parish. Their recommendations on future provision of services will be put to the SBC Transport Manager.
Present were Tim Steiner of JMP Consultants, the SBC Passenger Transport Manager, Cllr Riddell-Carre and 19 members of the community.
The discussion initially centred round the provision of a more "demand responsive" service depending of the needs of the community, rather than having empty buses following an inflexible timetable. This was not to be a cost-cutting exercise but rather the provision of a service to fulfil the considered needs of the people actually using the service was to be a priority.
At this point the Transport Manager pointed out that there was some urgency as the existing service from Kelso to St Boswells via Maxton was being withdrawn on March 13th 2006. The meeting was taken aback, to say the least, as no forewarning had been given or discussion had taken place and Cllr Riddell-Carre admitted that she was not aware of this move, either.
This led to a long and often heated discussion on the validity of the usage figures, the changes in the provision of services within the community, the need to access medical services, the relative priorities being given to the routes on the two sides of the river, the ill-considered timings of some of the buses and the times when fixed timetable buses were seen to be essential.
The idea of a "Dial a Bus" service to provide for the needs of the community between the fixed time buses was put forward, and examples given of the successful implementation of such a scheme in rural areas. The needs of the less agile were to be considered as was provision for the carrying of shopping bags, pushchairs etc.
All of the concerns of the community regarding the safety of walking on local roads, particularly during the dark winter days, the needs of St Cuthbert's Way walkers and other visitors to the area, provision of school transport from within the village, and other matters of concern, were noted.
As the process of putting a new, improved and "demand responsive" service has to be completed within six weeks, the Transport Manager undertook to process all the various stages with utmost speed, and report back on the future service by mid February, by which time the process of tendering may well have been completed.
If members of the community wish to make further points, prior to a decision being made, they should contact the Passenger Transport Manager at Scottish Borders Council urgently.
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