The support of Dundee’s main bus operator, Xplore Dundee, is helping to make Dundee city centre a safer place at weekends.
Safe Zone Bus, which operates in the city centre as a sanctuary for anyone who’s injured, intoxicated or vulnerable, is also potentially saving thousands for the NHS and emergency services. A recent report by the Portman Group on similar projects throughout the UK estimates that for every £1 spent, up to £9.31 is saved by the public sector, as well as significantly freeing up police, ambulance and A&E resources.
The team of volunteers who drive and staff the bus provide all kinds of assistance, including help to sober up, recharging a mobile phone, assistance getting home or first aid to deal with injuries or mental illness. More than 800 people have visited Dundee’s bus in the past year. On Friday and Saturday nights it is usually stationed outside Lidl supermarket, close to a number of local nightclubs, but in the past 12 months it has also attended additional events such as the Slessor Gardens concerts, Fresher’s Week at Dundee University Student Union (DUSA) and Dundee Dance Event.
A key partner for Safe Zone Bus, Xplore Dundee provides guidance, training and practical help to this important initiative, which is in its third year of operation. Xplore Dundee’s Engineering Manager Franck Sheach said: “It’s not easy for a charity to manage the running and maintenance of a bus, relying solely on grants and funding from partner organisations. That’s why we provide guidance to the team on maintenance and driving issues.
“Xplore Dundee’s garage has an extremely high safety standard and we are helping the Safe Zone project to work to similar guidelines.
“It’s an excellent project to work with in partnership and we commend the work these volunteers do each weekend with people who might otherwise find themselves at serious risk of harm.”
The project has most recently been boosted by the addition of a sweeper vehicle, which was purchased with assistance from Xplore Dundee. Police and trained volunteers patrol the city centre in this vehicle, picking up anyone who might be in need of help and bringing them back to the main bus.
Safe Zone has a team of around 20 volunteers, who receive training in first aid, drug awareness and welfare support. Xplore Dundee has also recently provided a team ‘uniform’ – branded hoodies which distinguish the helpers from visitors and also help keep the team warm while they’re out with the bus until the small hours of the morning.
The project is operated by Tayside Council on Alcohol; its Chief Executive Kathryn Baker said: “Safe Zone plays an important role in ensuring the safety and well-being of those enjoying the hospitality of Dundee’s night time economy. TCA would like to thank Xplore Dundee, Police Scotland, Dundee City Health and Social Care Integration Joint Board, British Red Cross and our dedicated volunteers for making this such a successful service.”
Safe Zone is continuing to look for volunteers to drive its bus or sweeper vehicle during weekend shifts in the city centre. Volunteers operate on a rota basis and would receive training to drive these vehicles. Anyone interested in becoming a Safe Zone driver should contact the project at TCA on 01382 456012.
Published 20th February 2018