Local bus operator Stagecoach has taken delivery of the first modified Buchan Xpress coach following customer feedback on the £5.5million fleet.
The first coach arrived in Buchan on Friday, March 17 following modifications being made by vehicle manufacturers ADL.
The £5.5m fleet of state-of-the-art, fully DDA compliant, coaches was introduced in November 2015, delivering a series of improved features for customers.
Following feedback on some of the design features of the coaches, Stagecoach has worked closely with the vehicle manufacturers on a series of modifications to deliver an even better travel experience for passengers.
Among the amended design features includes a modification to the staircase to help make boarding easier for those with mobility restrictions.
Additional hand rails have also been installed to make boarding even easier for customers.
Six new stopping bells have been fitted to the coach, meaning the coaches will have almost double the number of stopping bells on board.
Stagecoach expects the agreed modifications to be made to all Buchan Xpress vehicles by Autumn.
Mark Whitelocks, Managing Director for Stagecoach North Scotland said: “We always seek to provide a better travelling experience for our customers and we are delighted to have taken delivery of the first modified Buchan Xpress coach.
“We have already received positive feedback from customers regarding the modifications.”
A survey carried out in Buchan in April 2016 revealed that nearly 8 out of 10 of those interviewed said the new coaches were an improvement to the bus service.
The survey was weighed to be demographically representative of the regular passengers on the Buchan Xpress coaches with 20% of those interviewed being 60 years old or over.
Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has said the refurbishments are a “step in the right direction”.
The MP received complaints from some passengers who were finding it difficult to climb on board - those with mobility problems or travelling with small children had the greatest concerns.
Dr Whiteford met several times with Stagecoach, who eventually agreed to make internal changes to the new fleet of buses, and in the longer term, consider how bus designs could be made more accessible.
Dr Eilidh Whiteford was invited along to see the first newly-refurbished bus by Stagecoach this month.
She said: “I am glad Stagecoach has listened to feedback from passengers, and have made real efforts to address the challenges faced by less agile and disabled passengers.
“While it is a step in the right direction, I also welcome the acknowledgement that there is a need in the longer term to improve the accessibility of rural bus services more widely, recognising that many passengers have some degree of mobility impairment, disability, or, in the case of those travelling with babies and toddlers, need help to get on and off the bus safely.
“I am glad Stagecoach have endeavoured to make these changes, and look forward to the rest of the fleet being refurbished over the coming months.”
Dr Whiteford added: “It is important our public transport is accessible to all parts of the community.”