Raging residents hit out at loss of ‘lifeline’ Dundee bus service

The 204 bus, in Windsor Street, Dundee.
The 204 bus, in Windsor Street, Dundee.

Residents set to lose a “lifeline” bus service have slammed the alternative offered by the council.

Locals in the West End have criticised the decision by SNP councillors, together with Lord Provost Ian Borthwick, to press ahead with scrapping the 204 service on Monday.

Run by Stagecoach on council cash, it travels from the city centre through the West End and up to Ninewells Hospital via Charleston. It is typically used by 2,500 people each month.

Residents in the West End launched a campaign to save it and gathered 250 signatures of support in an online petition.

They say the service is the only alternative for elderly residents who otherwise walk up some of Dundee’s steepest streets to hail a Perth Road bus.

However, the plan was ultimately retained by 15 votes to 12 after the SNP administration refused to back down – instead offering up a redesign of the local over-60s Blether Bus to suit those losing the 204.

In a tense series of exchanges yesterday, Liberal Democrat group leader Fraser Macpherson hit out at council officers whom he accused of prioritising savings over local needs.

Fraser Macpherson.

He openly berated the council’s use of “anecdotal evidence”, which suggested it was only used sporadically, as rationale for stopping the route.

Scrapping the 204 would save £20,000 in 2019-20 and £40,000 a year thereafter, according to official figures from the council.

Analysis by the Scottish Government suggests the council underspent its bus subsidy budget by £182,000 last year.

Mr MacPherson told councillors: “The fact of the matter is that the Blether Bus is not an alternative and the bottom line here is we either care, or we don’t. You don’t base these decisions on anecdotes.

“The council’s budget has been through hard times but we’re talking about £40,000 a year. What’s the real saving when you take social and wellbeing factors into account?

“To invoke Shania Twain, ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’.”

Pensioners in West End calling for city council to rethink ‘lifeline’ bus axing

Coldside SNP member Mark Flynn said the council had compromised by giving residents a hand in redesigning the route of the Blether Bus – a hop-on minibus for over-60s.

Critics say the minibus is not suitable for those with mobility issues – and ignores the 18% of passengers under 60 who use the 204.

And Mr Macpherson accused the council of inaction given that the first consultation is next month – and the 204 stops just a month later.

Mr Flynn said: “The decision to scrap the 204 was passed in the budget and I think it is right we do what’s been passed in that budget.

“We’re going to allow people to get involved in this consultation and have the opportunity to design the route.”

Councillor Mark Flynn.

In response, Lochee Labour representative Charlie Malone said: “Residents will be ‘allowed’ to have a say? We should be listening to them.”

Council leader John Alexander, who opposed Mr Macpherson’s motion, said the 204’s replacement would be a “service designed by the community”.

But residents who made representations at the council, including Nigel Johnson, say such platitudes will not satisfy frustrated residents.

Mr Johnson said: “The council is paying lip service to people’s concerns – it is just looking at the bottom line. This decision just doesn’t make sense – it’s a soft-touch solution.”