ember’s still glowing

Tuesday 8th February 2022

It’s getting on for eighteen months since the start up company called ember (“the UK’s first scheduled electric coach company”) charged on to the Scottish express coach scene with its eight journey a day route between Dundee and Edinburgh.

I took anther ride last Friday to see how it’s glowing.

Bearing in mind the period since ember’s launch in October 2020 hasn’t exactly been typical with on-off travel restrictions as part of Scotland’s Covid containment measures I wasn’t expecting major developments.

Also, ember’s website (curiously there’s no app) has been indicating plenty of seats available on each journey as I’ve taken a look from time to time.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see eight passengers waiting to board the parked up coach as I arrived at the Greenmarket terminal point in Dundee shortly before the 12:45 departure time.

Even more impressive was seeing the driver busy with mop and bucket giving the interior a good clean including the steps to welcome us aboard.

That done, it only took a couple of minutes for the nine of us to get on board and with our QR style codes on devices or print outs duly scanned and the mop and bucket safely secured in a small locker behind the driver’s cab window we were off to Edinburgh spot on time.

I couldn’t help notice I must have brought the average age of the passengers on board up by a good few years thinking how ember seems to be appealing to a younger market than the senior age group long associated with coach travel.

The coach is nicely kitted out inside with comfortable smart looking seats.

We picked up one more passenger as we headed out of Dundee and were then soon gliding down the free flowing dual carriageway A90 towards Perth and the M90 south.

You really notice the smooth and quiet ride as the coach takes advantage of continuous motorway running passing some lovely Scottish scenery along the way.

It didn’t seem long before we popped off the motorway to pick up two more passengers waiting for us at a conveniently sited small Park & Ride site by a Sainsbury’s store just off the motorway on the outskirts of Kinross.

This was followed by a similar off and on the motorway to serve a stop for Rosyth, but no takers here and we were soon approaching the new Queensferry Crossing that’s replaced the Forth Road Bridge.

Aside from the Perth change the most significant development since my 2020 ride is the rerouting of the service on its way into and out of Edinburgh away from the A90 to now offer journeys to Edinburgh airport. However, whereas I was expecting a ten minute or so time penalty for through passengers to come off the A8 for the airport, instead of heading to the terminal buildings we just slipped into the handy Ingliston Park & Ride site by the A8 junction itself and stopped right by the adjacent penultimate tram stop before the airport.

Thus enables ember passengers to make a ‘seamless connection’ to a tram for the one stop hop to the airport terminal without adding unduly to the journey time for non airport passengers. I guess it also means ember saves paying any charges for picking up and setting down alongside the airport terminal building.

This arrangement is obviously catching on as nine of our 11 passengers alighted here and headed over to the tram stop.

Even more interesting is the fare and ticket arrangements. It costs £6.50 single to travel with ember from Dundee to the Ingliston stop and £7.50 to Edinburgh city centre. But although Edinburgh Tram charges a whopping £6.50 for the one stop short hop from Ingliston to the Airport (it’s a bargain basement flat rate £1.80 for any journey length on the rest of the line) ember have done a canny deal with Lothian so that you can buy a through ticket from Dundee to the airport, via the tram’s one stop, for just £7.50 all in, ie £1 more than to Ingliston.

This compares to £18 single (reduced to £14 if bought a fortnight in advance) on Xplore Dundee’s three-hourly X90 Dundee to Edinburgh airport direct X90 route which also has returns at £24 or £20 if bought in advance, but still more than two ember single tickets.

Another significant development is the ember service now terminates in the much more centrally located St Andrew Square – alongside the city’s competing sightseeing buses (First’s Bright Bus Tours -v- Lothian’s various brands).

Last time I travelled soon after the service began in 2020 the terminus was alongside the less conveniently located St Andrew’s House, although there was a stop in Princes Street which seems is now no longer served.

The other interesting news from ember is from Monday week, 21st February, the service frequency is expanding with the current eight departures increasing to 14 running more or less every 90 minutes through the day and evening with a night time journey too.

Whereas departures are currently from Dundee at 04:40, 07:20, 09:45, 12:45, 15:50, 18:25, 21:30 and 23:45 from Monday 21st this expands significantly to 02:00, 05:00, 07:00, 08:15, 09:30. 11:00, 12:30, 14:00, 15:30, 17:00, 18:30, 20:00, 21:30 and 23:00.

An extra charging point has been installed at the Greenmarket terminus to accommodate the expanded requirement with more buses and drivers joining the ember fleet.

Covid has obviously dented owners Keith and Pierce’s original expansion plans but the friendly “leading sustainable bank” behind ember are obviously still on board and supporting this expanding phase in the company’s life. Future developments will be interesting to watch.

Finally a shout out to Ian my lovely driver on Friday as he kept my scarf secure and tweeted me to let me know it was safe with him on the St Andrew stand guessing the cold chill of Edinburgh’s February afternoon would soon mean I’d realised I’d left it behind. I did, and was delighted to be reunited with it. Thanks Ian.

If you fancy a ride with ember today, at the time of typing this on Monday evening, there’s still plenty of seats available.

It’s an enjoyable ride.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu.

Next blog, Thursday 10th February 2022: More electrifying travels in Edinburgh and Dundee.

12 thoughts on “ember’s still glowing

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  1. All express coach services within Scotland accept Scottish concessionary passes including the new young persons pass up to age 22.
    Given the age profile of those travelling, it would be interesting to know how many passengers apart from you Roger paid a fare and how that will affect future viability of the route.

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  2. Miss Marple and her ilk deserted coaches way back in the 1990s Roger, when the Senior Railcard became ever more popular. The age profile dropped like a stone from then on, and I have always been by far the oldest person on a coach for the last twenty-five years.

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  3. Thanks, interesting. I’d be tempted if I lived on the route. It might be worth mentioning their website says they take bikes (for free) too.

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  4. Interesting that you say the coach was smooth and quiet. There was a Youtube video posted shortly after the launch which showed a very rattly electric coach.

    ps Thanks for changing the background for commenting – I can now see what I’m typing 😁

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  5. So if pensioner travel free and young people travel free this service does not seem to be viable. It seems on the journey monitored it is an almost 2 hour journey and presumably lengthy layovers at each end to recharge the batteries
    We know that there were about a dozen passengers and at least one person paid a fare. How many were travelling on free passes we do not know nor do we know the reimbursement rate for the passes

    We do know that Covid appear to have operantly reduced passengers numbers by at least 20%. The cost of these electric coaches will not be cheaper neither and replacing the batteries is very expensive
    This also impact the value of second hand coaches

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    1. It may be free at the entrance door, but the bus operator will receive monies for carrying the various passholders . . . paid for (in Scotland) by the Government.
      It will all depend on the level of reimbursement offered . . . if it is “no better or no worse”, then passholders are a good source of income. If it isn’t . . .

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  6. I’ve never understood how airports are allowed to charge premium rates for public transport access. That extra amount to access the last stop on Edinburgh Trams is a blatant rip off. Good job railway stations don’t do this.

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  7. That stop before the airport is only 1km away so you could walk assuming you didn’t have big cases,kids,etc in tow.It’s hard to tell from the OS map if there’s a path by the tram line but the road to the airport is just west .

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  8. The UK’s first 100mph battery-diesel hybrid train is entering passenger service to cut carbon emissions and boost air quality.

    It was developed by adding a powerful battery to a 20-year-old diesel train to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 25%, according to owner Porterbrook.

    The firm added that the two-carriage train, named HybridFLEX, also provides a 75% decrease in noise and a 70% decrease in nitrogen oxide.

    Chiltern Railways will introduce the train on its 40-mile route between London Marylebone and Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, on Thursday.

    There are plans to use it between the capital and Oxford in the coming months.

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    1. I wonder how heavy the batteries are and how much space they take up? Battery technology hasn’t really changed much and like everything else is bound by those good old Newtonian laws you only get out of something what you put in and infact you’d get a bit less out due to losing a bit in transmission.I’m just thinking about the battery in the first mobile phone I bought back in about 1993 and the one I have now and the size is basically the same although it’s flater now.They seem to last longer now but that’s probably due to the phones more energy efficient components rather than the battery.There is a strange class 19 locomotive converted from a Mk3 DVT which might be battery powered and connected to Chilton since they donated the DVT.Another, assuming it still runs ,is the Hythe Pier Railway.Those LU yellow engineering locomotives are battery too, probably 4th rail too?,for when the power is isolated.Strangley the Channel Tunnel doesn’t seem to use them as rescue locos but diesel MAK locos with scrubbers.

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  9. We may yet have further developments at both Edinburgh & Dundee are aligned for LEZ charging from June this year, when driving in with a non compliant vehicle will get an ANPR enforced charge, so that with driving & parking already taking as long if not longer than catching the coach, we might be on the cusp of ICE-free city centres, Dundee especially where I’m hoping that Mr R Roberts might strike a deal with Ember – despite their rival route to use his electric buses, and Ride-On (a Spanish company) with public hire bikes brand-sponsored by Embark, and Co-Wheels PAYG electric car hire can deliver.

    Edinburgh has fared less well, with Serco’s business model failing to work (compared to Glasgow, Dundee, Stirling and Inverness) and the city lacks a public bike hire scheme, although it has electric buses, and electric car club cars

    The Software used by Ember is delivering what I’ve long wanted to see from Passenger, Padam &c, and using the facility through modern ticket validation to provide the driver with a manifest for each stop, and (by law – as these are coaches not buses) a seat for every passenger, and a reservation for each wheelchair or cycle coming on board. I’ve not checked the seat count (surely you should have done that & commented on generous leg-room?) but for a 12 metre 3.4m coach they are carrying at least as many cycles as the 230-seat 69 metre trains going between Dundee and Edinburgh

    A further added benefit for the operation is the caveat that if no bookings are made before a 10 minute cut of on departure time, the coach may run past an intermediate stop. Imagine the ‘product’ that can then be offered to many rural operations. No more violent stops for a surprise roadside hail, no more anxiety over an early running service vanishing over the hill as you get to the stop, plus tie in with DRT, village taxis &c in the same style as the Lincolnshire Interconnect of years past booked to meet the coach at the motorway stop

    I see several sites with potential, and the option of pressing the Active Travel funding buttons – for example not running express coaches through Swindon, and having ANPR-enforced coach lay-bys on M4 (Lewknor (M40) – style) by the Nationwide HQ & parking, with an already established regular bus service in to town, with passenger access to kerbside via door(s) only opening when a coach is present

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