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Majority of students had negative First Bus experience, Union survey reveals

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Credit Stirling Students’ Union

A survey conducted by Stirling Students’ Union has found that a majority of students have had a negative experience with First Bus.

Of the 262 students who responded, 78% admitted to having an overall negative experience with the buses, while 75% said they have had difficulty using the company’s services.

The discontent follows the company’s amendments to Stirling’s First bus services, which came into effect on September 10. Students were left particularly ‘disappointed’ with the cuts to the Hillfoots service into the university.

Students have also condemned the company’s bus irregularity, as buses repeatedly fail to show at their scheduled time, making students late or even miss their classes.

David Phillips, Operations Director for First Scotland East said the company are using students’ feedback to improve services to the university. He said: “First Scotland East welcome this and all feedback from the students of Stirling University. We have used this, along with feedback from recent meetings with the Student Union representatives and University senior management to conduct an interim review of the service.

“I am happy to report, we are pleased to be increasing the frequency of the UniLink service from every ten minutes to a seven minute frequency due to current demand during the peak times of 8am to 6pm as well as adding additional journey opportunities to satisfy demand. Weekend and evening times will remain unaltered.”

Mr Phillips added that students are encouraged to send any further feedback to the company in order to allow for further improvements to the service provision.

However, there are no immediate service plans to the recently axed Hillfoots service operating through the university.

Addressing the matter, Mr Phillips noted that if demand changed, First would review the network. He said: “Customer usage of services 62/63 through the university was very low.

“Only 3.9% of all passenger journeys made on route 62/63 involved Stirling University students and only 24% of that 3.9% involved travel that was not between the university and the city centre, so less than 1% of the entire demand on the service was from the Hillfoots/Alloa areas directly to the university.

“Demand for journeys between the university and the Hillfoots villages was therefore so low that at that time it was simply not commercially viable for us to provide such a link any further. However, if the changes to where students choose to live accelerates and the demand for that link increases, we would of course choose review the network to incorporate that direct travel option.”

Union President Astrid Smallenbroek and VP Communities Jamie Grant have been consulting with First Bus in recent weeks to discuss these ongoing complaints.

In their open letter to First Bus at the beginning of semester, the Union sabbatical officers said the cuts were “frustrating” considering the amount of students at the university who were dependent on the company’s services.

They wrote: “We recognise that a significant proportion of the students we represent depend on [First’s] services to get to and from our campus. Services that are punctual, safe and affordable make all the difference to the wider student experience, and it’s on this basis that the Union have been working closely with the University, in attempts to improve the working relationship we both share with First Bus.

“It is therefore disappointing and frustrating that, once again, communication and cooperation have broken down, leaving us let down by the actions of First.

“The newest round of service changes, including the scrapping of several services through the campus from the Hillfoots area, have left us deeply frustrated at First’s continual lack of stakeholder engagement.

“One week of public consultation in the Stirling area earlier in July is simply not adequate, especially given that many students are currently on their summer break.”

The Students’ Union have been meeting with First Bus and Stirling Council on the issue and have relayed student feedback.

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