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.
Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu.
Next blog, Thursday 10th February 2022: More electrifying travels in Edinburgh and Dundee.