‘Dramatic’ changes for transport could see Uber-style buses, bike pools and car sharing, meeting hears

Demand responsive bus services, bike pools and car sharing are some of the ideas being considered for the future of transport in Shetland.

Robina Barton,  transport policy and projects officer at the SIC, has outlined a number of potential changes to the existing service.

Speaking at last night’s Lerwick Community Council she said: “Transport is getting really interesting at the moment.

“I think we will be seeing some quite dramatic changes in the next few years.”

Among the more intriguing suggestions was a move from fixed bus routes towards “demand responsive” solutions, using technology.

Council member Stewart Hay had highlighted similar schemes in other areas, which he described as a “kind of community Uber”, referring to the app-based ride-hailing company, available in large cities.

Mr Hay said that during the pandemic there had been plenty of buses but, understandably, not many passengers on board.

He suggested that any review  could therefore be an ideal opportunity to look at delivering transport driven by people’s needs, rather than buses following specific routes at allotted times around the island. 

Ms Barton said the work to investigate such transport models was “already underway”.

She said it would use technology to carry out realtime analysis of the transport networks and available vehcicles to determine how they can best be used.

Ms Barton said the SIC was currently in discussions with a company called ViaVan, which has provided such schemes in places including Sevenoaks.

At the start of the pandemic, the Kent town changed all its fixed routes into demand responsive services.

It allows a user to call up or use an app to say where and when they want to travel and for a vehicle to be sent within 500 yards of them at a stated time. 

“That’s a model we would like to explore,” Ms Barton said.

“We’re asking them to do a piece of work for us to do some modelling on how that demand responsive service could operate and which bits of the fixed network it might be able to work with.”

Ms Barton also highlighted possible schemes for bike pools and peer to peer car sharing, via apps.

The discussion was part of an update on the SIC’s far transport review.

She said the council’s “overarching aim is to try and encourage people out of cars, particularly single occupancy cars.

“So that means we want to encourage people to either used shared transport, public transport or active travel.

“And the challenge that we have is actually linking those up.”


Add Your Comment
  • John M Scott

    • May 5th, 2021 6:57

    This is one of the stupidest ideas I have ever heard of. There is a massive difference between Sevenoaks and Shetland. Sevenoaks has a population of 30,000, and is only 20 miles from the centre of London. The people of Sevenoaks have access to a fantastic commuter rail service too. Shetland has a rapidly ageing population who depend on regular bus links, and, unless internet access is improved soon, cannot be expected to use an App on a mobile telephone to summon a bus. The other issue is visitors to Shetland use the bus links too. If tourism is to thrive, then a reliable timetabled transport network is vital to the future growth of this vital sector of the islands economy.

  • Sheenagh Burns

    • May 10th, 2021 7:43

    Has anyone noticed that Kent has far better mobile phone coverage than rural Shetland? There’s no mobile phone signal in our village, which is not that remote, how do we summon a bus via an app? Plus the elderly people who make most use of buses may neither have nor want a smartphone. Nor, as the commenter above points out, can we expect tourists to do this. They need buses to run to fixed times, not have to sit and wait heaven knows how long for one to turn up, because we need not suppose they will react like taxis and come at once – that wouldn’t be practicable.


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