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miniplus June issue 31

OPERATOR | D&G LITTLE BUS miniplus.co.uk | June 2017 | 29 maintenance facilities with D&G’s 30-strong conventional bus fleet, it is a simple task for engineers to alter seating arrangements to suit the following day’s requirements. To make this as simple a task as possible, tracking rails are cleaned daily, and while considerable dead mileage could be saved by parking minibuses at outstations in the towns that they serve, all are kept at Crewe overnight to ensure they are available for the following day’s service without issue. A demonstrator with a low-floor area has been evaluated by Little Bus, but drivers suggested that they prefer flat-floor models. That’s not just for layout flexibility, says Paula. “Drivers prefer to secure passengers in the vehicle using straps rather than using a backrest and the chair’s brakes in a low-floor area because they know then that the user is not going to move. Drivers have been trained how to tie down wheelchairs properly, and our scheduling allows them time to do so. “Drivers were TUPE’d across with the contract and they were familiar with DRT work, but we were all given comprehensive training in every aspect of the operation by D&G. “That included safe stowage of passengers’ bags; an example used during the training was on another operator’s service when a can of Coke fell out of the overhead racks and injured someone.” That’s part of D&G’s commitment to making sure that things are done correctly on Little Bus, as well they should be when the social importance of the service is considered. “Our passengers, and particularly those who are wheelchair users, often say that DRT is their lifeline. If it didn’t operate, they would be unable to leave their house. That’s how important it is,” adds Paula. “Five days a week, we send out nine vehicles to cover all of Cheshire East, and we work very hard to accommodate every user’s request. It’s not always an exact science, but the nature of the service and the nature of our passengers mean that they are all carried, even if it is very occasionally on an alternative day.” Passenger volumes have gone in the right direction since D&G took on the Little Bus DRT work, and it increased the number of vehicles in service every day from eight to nine. “We went to the council and told it that an additional minibus was needed to meet growing demand. It looked at the figures and it agreed with us.” Funding for public transport in Cheshire East is currently under review. But Little Bus serves a valuable need for many of the area’s mobility-restricted residents, and it does so efficiently and with a team of committed drivers and supervisors. The increase in passenger numbers is testament to that. 3 4 Keeping drivers in the same areas is something that we feel very strongly about


miniplus June issue 31
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