REVEALED: The number of people who ACTUALLY use Xplore Dundee’s ’empty’ 360 bus

While tourists were flocking to catch a glimpse of the newly opened V&A last year, Dundee bus operator Xplore launched its 360 circle route to take visitors across the city centre.

But after taking a “leap of faith” with the service, has the risk paid off?

The Tele has taken multiple trips on the city centre service to find out why passengers use the tourist-friendly service – only to be on a lonely journey across the town with no passengers boarding.

As well as that, the Tele has also observed the bus travelling through the city centre on dozens of other occasions – including weekends – with no passengers on board.

The service takes in attractions including The McManus and the Verdant Works, as well as practical stops such as the railway station.

A source close to Xplore Dundee told the Tele: “This service has mostly been useful for residents in the City Quay but it started at the wrong time of the year.”

The 360 first launched in September and the source revealed the number of people who use the service throughout the day is usually in the low 20s – at best.

He added: “There were a few more people when the V&A opened who got on at the Apex but once their holiday finishes, they’re all gone.”

A hop on/hop off day ticket costs £3 for an adult to use the service which allows passengers to do the city centre loop as many times as they wish throughout the day.

Speaking about the fare, the source said: “We could have introduced a special fare instead to make it more attractive.

“Some people use the service to go to Verdant Works but the route only takes you to Courthouse Square and passengers have to be given directions on how to get there by foot.

“In fairness, the service has not been tested in the summer period, so if it doesn’t work then, it never will.

“Management is split over what they want to do with it.”

He added: “There is a core group of loyal customers who use the service from 8-10am but then it doesn’t really pick up again unless residents want to be taken home from the city centre to their apartments in City Quay.”

Regular bus user Beverly Harper reckons the service has run its course and should be scrapped.

Beverly, 53, said: “They should stop the service, no one uses it. It is a complete waste.

“Even if disabled or elderly people need to get across the city centre, they would use a taxi.”

But Laurie Kerwin, 23, a support worker from Kirkton, saw a positive side to the service.

She added: “I work with people who are disabled so I know it’s useful for them.”

An Xplore Dundee spokeswoman said: “We’re working to publicise the service and would urge local attractions, hotels and restaurants to keep promoting the bus to their customers.

“We also want to encourage the people of Dundee to use it – it’s a great way to get around the city, linking visitors and locals with the railway station and bus station, as well as great attractions including The McManus, Verdant Works and, of course, the V&A Dundee.

“Service 360 is a leap of faith – we still believe this service is important and necessary, connecting Dundee’s cultural hotspots, and we hope customers and visitors will demonstrate their support for this bus during the next few weeks.”

Empty bus not the only lonely public transport in Tayside

The 360 might be one of Dundee’s quietest bus services but, to paraphrase The Police, it isn’t alone in feeling alone.

Some railway stations in far-flung parts of Tayside are among the least-used in the country, according to the Office for Rail and Road.

A total of 52 passengers used the station at Barry Links in 2017-18, officially making it Britain’s second-least used railway station.

However, it is growing in popularity, given that only 24 people used the station in 2016-17.

The least-used station in the UK is Redcar British Steel, which welcomed 40 passengers in 2017-18. The station is served by four trains, six days a week.

Golf Street station in Carnoustie welcomed 268 passengers last year, up from 104, while 698 passengers passed through the gates of Balmossie station, down from 1,364.

Detailed figures on bus usage are not routinely produced by Transport Scotland, but the most recent figures, published in February last year, show bus journeys fell by 2% to 59 million across the North East, Tayside and Central Scotland.

However, the number of subsidised routes – services funded by councils that would otherwise not run – appears to be growing, with subsidised vehicles covering more miles each year.

Transport woes aren’t limited to the ground either.

Dundee Airport’s passenger numbers have fallen by 43.4% year-on-year as of March last year.

In recent times the airport has lost daily flights to Amsterdam and summertime links to the Channel Islands. It continues to run daily flights to London.

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