Community transport faces major challenge
Mike Vernon, back row, second right, is pictured with Cllr Toby Savage, far right, and West of England mayor Tim Bowles, back row third from right, at the handover on March 3 before the pandemic took hold
A COMMUNITY transport charity which has been described as a lifeline to elderly people in South Gloucestershire has seen services virtually grind to a halt as the Covid-19 pandemic tightens its grip.
Ironically Kingswood Community Transport had just been presented with two new minibuses to help them to continue to provide their valuable services to residents.
General manager Mike Vernon said: “We have lost probably 80% to 85% of our bookings. All group bookings for the foreseeable future have been cancelled.
“Although we have received two new minibuses - and our thanks to Toby Savage at South Gloucestershire Council for obtaining the grant from the WECA - with the huge level of cancellations we now have spare vehicles and we are having to send home our volunteer drivers.
“We continue to run our dial-a-ride service for essential journeys, shops and medical appointments. We have been operating a ‘doctors shuttle’ to the Hanham and Oldland Common surgeries for the last nine months and due to the current situation we are opening up this service to all who live in our area. Anybody who will struggle with transport to get to their surgery can ring us on 0117 961 6016 to book a ride.”
Group hire is a major part of income generation for Kingswood Community Transport, offering accessible and affordable minibus services to 120 groups.
The charity covers the entire South Gloucestershire area including more isolated areas such as Tormarton, Doynton and Acton Turville.
Transport groups Green Community Travel in Yate and Four Towns and Vale Link Transport in Thornbury also received two new minibuses each at the handover on March 3. A further two vehicles for each group are scheduled for delivery later in the summer.
South Gloucestershire Council secured £740,000 of funding in 2019 for the 12 buses, which comes from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership through the Local Growth Fund, administered by the West of England Combined Authority.
The new minibuses are equipped with Euro 6 engines and will replace some of the oldest vehicles in the operators’ existing fleets, helping to reduce harmful emissions, as well as lowering fuel consumption and reducing ongoing maintenance costs.
Mr Vernon said: “The next few months will be very challenging for us and our members.
“Loneliness and isolation is already a big issue for our elderly population, so a lockdown will only make this worse. We are looking at how we can help with this issue in any way we can.”