Transport Manifesto for Rural Community Councils' Charities

  |  Published: Mar 22nd 2015

Community transport schemes need an injection of cash and volunteers if they are to meet growing demand, Community Impact Bucks has warned.

The charity is backing a call by its national body ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) for the next Government to review rural community transport issues.

Rural residents rely heavily on volunteer schemes for a wide range of journeys – from taking children to school to helping the elderly and sick get to hospital.

From solo car drivers through to fully-fledged minibus services, there are an estimated 2,000 community transport schemes across England – one third in mostly rural areas, according to the Community Transport Association (CTA) State of the Sector Report 2014.

But ACRE, the national voice for England’s network of rural community councils, says community transport is under increasing pressure as demand rises.

A growing elderly population, cuts to rural bus services, reduced NHS patient transport, difficulties recruiting volunteers and a ‘postcode lottery’ approach to bus pass funding are all adding to the strain, ACRE says. 

It is calling on the next Government to urgently review community transport issues and invest to help schemes stay on the road.

Nick Phillips, Chief Executive of Community Impact Bucks said: “Community transport schemes are a lifeline for people living in isolated, rural areas, especially for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and disabled. It is clear however that the lack of community transport and the growing cost of car insurance is affecting the ability of young people to get access to jobs. The impact is often for villages to see a drain of youngsters moving out and rural villages lose the valuable mix of a vibrant community.”

“There is a decreasing pool of people who feel able to take on a volunteer driver role due to their age and other commitments, a decreasing funding for transport schemes and as traditional bus roots close and NHS transport services diminish the pressure is increasing on rural communities to remain vibrant and healthy.”

“More than 35% of pensioner households in rural areas have no access to a car and fewer than half of rural households have access to a regular bus service, compared with 95% of urban households. Young people getting to work from rural villages without the use of a car is often impossible.”

“This situation calls for some joined-up thinking between Government departments to ensure a level playing field for community transport schemes across England.”

ACRE’s evidence from its grassroots intelligence supports the main recommendations of the CTA’s State of the Sector report.

ACRE’s 2015 manifesto is built on its understanding of the needs of rural communities and is calling for:

  • Investment in recruiting and training volunteers, especially younger drivers, for community transport schemes
  • An urgent review of the criteria for Non-Emergency Patient Transport, to address the discrimination faced by rural residents.
  • A review of concessionary bus travel in rural areas, which have a high number of elderly and disabled bus pass holders.

ACRE acknowledged that the Department for Transport last year made £25 million available to provide hundreds of new minibuses to community transport operators in rural and isolated areas. However, it said the issues of driver training and funding needed to be addressed so that schemes could make the most of the opportunity.

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