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Buchan Dial-a-Community Bus (BDCB)

Buchan Dial-a-Community Bus (BDCB) offers a Community Transport provision to those people who are elderly, disabled, rurally or socially excluded in the Buchan Area.

Dial-a-bus begins

The project began as a partnership between Buchan Dial-a-Bus, which was set up in 1993 by a volunteer group, and the Central Buchan Community Bus, which was administered through Mintlaw Community Education.

In 1999 a grant from the Rural Community Transport Initiative allowed BDCB to buy 2 new 16 seat minibuses that have been completely adapted for the needs of the elderly and disabled and employ a part time co-ordinator and full time driver. Service began in July 2000 and quickly began to make its mark in the local communities.

To date it runs 5 days per week taking customers from all over rural Buchan to shopping centres, in Aberdeenshire, and then back to their homes. It offers those who are disabled or frail the facility of a wheelchair, walking aid and/or a volunteer escort so that they can have a little independence rather than relying on family and friends for help.

BDCB has also had assistance from Aberdeenshire Council  which means that those customers with a concession card (approx 99%) can use the bus for no charge.

The community use service has regular bookings from groups such as the guides, Mental Health groups, Brownies, School PTA's, the local arthritis group, walking groups, pensioner clubs etc.
Because the buses are fully adapted, everyone in the local community is able to access comfortable and reasonably priced transport. This is very important to us and the feed back we have had is that all the customers are very happy with the service.

Other groups like Aberdeen Foyer and the Young Carers use the minibus to allow their youth services to access affordable, every day transport with no "stigma-quality". That means that the young people do not have the feeling that "everyone knows who they are" etc. Although this may sound a little silly, this is vitally important for the mental health and well being of a wide range of groups, including the variety of Mental Health groups that use the service regularly, something that Dial-a-Bus takes very seriously.

In early 2001 Dial-a- Bus decided to become a company limited by guarantee, and in February of 2004 also successfully applied for status as a Scottish Charity.

The service has won plaudits: In November 2001 it gained the prestigious Investors in People award, and it was successfully reassessed in March 2004. It is also currently exploring Social Auditing as a new and innovative way of Monitoring and Evaluating the services.

Alternative Patient Transport service
In spring of 2001 the next project was started: the Alternative Patient Transport service, to transport people to local doctor's surgeries/ out patient and chiropodist appointments etc. This pilot project ran a year to assess the need for this type of service in the area.

What was discovered very quickly was that there was more of a need than we could be met by a part time service. Sharing the minibus with community use customers meant turning down regular community use opportunities to run the APT, or turn down patients who needed transport in order to service community use customers. It highlighted the need for further growth.

Buses for the Bank

At this point Dial-a-Bus were also asked by a local MP and the Clydesdale Bank to help transport customers from one village to another to get to the bank there. This was due to the fact that the Clydesdale was closing down their local branch and the community had no access to other banking facilities in the vicinity.

With sponsorship from the Clydesdale Bank, the service ran successfully and although this specific service no longer continues, Dial-a-Bus does provide an "on demand" service to and from the local bank and other services along with our APT provision when it can.

In 2002 further funding added a small 9 seat fully accessible Renault Master minibus to extend the existing services. It primarily serves the Alternative Patient Transport Service for the Buchan area. Anyone who does not have access to transport and who may not qualify for (or cannot use) the Ambulance Service's Non Emergency Patient Transport, will be able to ask for transport to and from doctor's surgeries, outpatient appointments, podiatrists, dentists, etc. We even help with transport for hospital visiting if we can. This helps alleviate the problem where one member of the family may be in hospital but because of transport problems they receive few, if any visits.

As with the Dial-a-Bus service there is a small fare charged for the APT, but at this point, since it is demand responsive and not timetabled in any way, Aberdeenshire Council does not recognise it in the Concessions Scheme.

Dial-a-Bus works closely with the Scottish Ambulance Non Emergency Patient Transport service and local health and care providers, including Social Work and Mental Health to ensure it offers the most efficient and effective service that it can.

The minibus worked constantly, and the driver often surpassed his allotted weekly hours, Dial-a-Bus is aware that it are still only touching the tip of the iceberg with this service, and often has to turn away desperate customers due to being already fully booked. The problem is unlikely to decline, and with the advent of the Joint Futures Paper Dial-a-Bus will, in all probability, be asked to provide yet more help by statutory services. So the company is looking at adding to the minibus service with a volunteer car transport project - at present it has no funding for this.

Evening transport and Library transport

E vening transport into and around Mintlaw. Was introduced during 2003, in partnership with of Central Buchan Learning and Development. This minibus runs from local villages into Mintlaw collecting young people from rural areas and bringing them to the youth facilities at Comm. Ed.
The run has been adapted to include a 3 evening a week Patient Transport Run from Peterhead to Mintlaw for the local Dialysis Unit, since the Scottish Ambulance service cannot provide cover in this area at present.

The bus is used on another evening to take people to the local. This began on a one day a week trial basis in March 2003 and has so far proved moderately successful.

Door to door demand

During 2004 Dial-a-Bus worked with Aberdeenshire Council's Public Transport Unit to help develop a door to door demand responsive transport service in and around the environs of Fraserburgh and Peterhead. A service level agreement with the Council was signed to provide a 5 day per week accessible minibus service for people who cannot access public transport for a variety of reasons taking them into both Peterhead and Fraserburgh to shop, for medical appointments, or for social reasons, and then home. The two year pilot programme went well, with approximately 113 members signed up to the schemes in Buchan.


The next venture was into a completely new area, but one felt to be a natural extension of and complements the transport services we provide. Early in 2004 Dial-a-Bus had been asked by Aberdeenshire Council to explore the viability of re-opening the Shopmobility Unit, which had been closed for over 2 years. In December 2004, after signing a service level agreement with Aberdeenshire Council's Social Work and Housing Department, the revamped Shopmobility project was launched. It is entirely staffed by volunteers and is open between 10am and 1pm Monday to Saturday inclusive.

About Dial-a-Bus

Dial-a-Bus has 4 full time drivers, a part time Youth Passenger Assistant a full time service co-ordinator and two part time administration assistants as well as a large group of volunteers who make up the community use drivers, passenger assistants, fundraisers and management committee etc.

Training is one of our most important responsibilities and we pride ourselves in offering as much training to the volunteers and staff as we can. As members of the Community Transport Association we follow and deliver their nationally accredited training programmes.

We have our own Minibus Emergency Evacuation and MiDAS Driver Assessor Trainer ( Dial-a-Bus driver Bill Michie) and everyone who drives a bus for us in any capacity must first sit the MiDAS test. We also have our own Passenger Assistant Trainer (Chairperson Norma Thomson) and we are currently in the middle of training all escorts and as many drivers as possible in Modules A, B and C2 at the least. She is also qualified to teach Emergency 1st Aid as part of the PATS package and will be beginning to pass on that training during 2005.
All paid drivers have current 1st Aid at work certificates

This training is provided to external agencies at a reasonable rate which brings Dial-a-Bus a small income in; groups such as Aberdeenshire Council, Cornerstone, Aberdeen Cyrenians and Mental Health have used our training services over the past couple of years.

Everyone involved in Dial-a-Community Bus is committed to providing the best possible transport provision for the local community and the volunteers spend a great deal of time and effort raising funds to improve and enhance the project. In addition to the grants and Service Level Agreements we have, Dial-a-Community Bus must raise a further 5,000 just to keep the present level of Scottish Executive funded services running.

If you or any member of your organisation feels that you would be able to help us raise funds in any way, it would be very much appreciated.

Should you wish any more information about Dial-a-Community Bus please call the co-ordinator; Rachel Milne on 01771 613666 and she'll be happy to help you.

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Company Registration No. 278156. Scottish Charity No. SC 029210