Council proposes bus gate changes but warn full U-turn could cost £8m

FirstBus on Union Street

COUNCILLORS have proposed making tweaks to Aberdeen’s bus gates after a report containing more than 500 objections to the measures was seen before a committee.

An experimental traffic order (ETO) was introduced last year to reduce the amount of cars on Market Street, Guild Street, Union Street and Bridge Street.

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A final decision on any changes won’t now be made until a meeting of the full council at a later date, however the Net Zero, Environment and Transport Committee has now backed suspending a bus gate on Union Street, meaning vehicles would be able to turn left onto Market Street.

The proposals allow drivers to go down the Market Street hill from Union Street, though they would not be able to continue straight on at the lights, while turning right would take them into another bus gate.

Drivers would be forced to turn left, providing access to Trinity Quay, Shiprow and Virginia Street

Tory councillor Duncan Massey branded the proposals “tepid, flimsy and feeble”.

Results of a council consultation were laid bare at the committee meeting, which include a 566-page document of individual objections to the bus priority measures, along with concerns being raised by around 90 different city centre businesses.

A survey from Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) was carried out in early 2024, which more than 1,000 people took part in.

The findings, published in the council’s meeting papers, show 90% of respondents say the changes to the road network have had a negative impact on their usual activities in Aberdeen city centre (65% substantially negative, 25% slight negative).

As a result of the road changes, nearly four in five (79%) say they visit the city less often, while more than half (51%) say the measures impact their travel time.

However, council co-leader and convener of the committee Ian Yuill decided to block citizens from telling council their worries.

Removing the bus gates totally could be a costly job for the local authority, should it wish to do so.

An £8m grant from the Bus Partnership Fund paid for the recent works on South College Street, though the case for leveraging the funding was based on facilitating the bus gates, according to planning chief David Dunne.

“Clearly there are no bus priority measures on South College Street, so… it shouldn’t have got money from the Bus Partnership Fund,” he admitted.

He added: “But it was argued that work allowed us to make the changes we made.”

Mr Dunne continued to say that the government would be “completely within their rights” to request the £8m back, should the bus priority measures be scrapped.

Since the new measures were introduced, Aberdeen’s main bus operators have sought to improve services and offer more to users.

Since the introduction of the bus gates in August 2023, the city’s main operators have reported improved journey times, while First Bus Aberdeen froze its prices for 2024/25.

Free bus travel was offered to everyone in the North-east every weekend in January.

This was a result of the bus gates “speeding up journey times for over 600,000 people each month in the city centre”, according to a joint statement from Stagecoach Bluebird and First Aberdeen in December last year.

The bus gates will be reviewed again in 18 months.

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