In our first blog for Catch the Bus Week we hear from Nigel Hinch, Director of ABILITY CIC. Ability are a new community transport provider and social enterprise set up at the start of 2019 in response to cuts to local bus routes. Here he talks about why they set up a new community transport scheme and the effect their community bus services have already had on their local community.
Following the removal of bus subsidies to commercial operators by Northamptonshire County Council, many communities found themselves with a problem – no bus service to enable people to reach essential services. Many older and disabled members of the community were the most vulnerable and were forgotten. For those who were unable to drive or who had lost their driving licence due to ill health or sight issues, buses were a lifeline for them.
We decide that we needed to do something about that and set up ABILITY Community Transport to make a difference. We’re a not for profit social enterprise, delivering customer-centric public transport in rural Northamptonshire. As a volunteer led organisation, we operate to sound commercial principles but with a social conscience and not for a profit. It’s a business that makes its money in a socially responsible way and puts it back into achieving social, community transport focused aims.
Through our community bus routes, we enhance the lives of many people living in rural South Northants through the provision of a flexible and reliable community bus service, enabling residents to gain access to local towns, to essential everyday services, allowing them to live independently.
Setting off on the journey
After six months of planning, communicating and obtaining funding, we commenced operations in January 2019 with a three day a week service from a rural area following the withdrawal of the previous service. This meant change for many of the older members and we took the time to explain why they needed to book in advance and kept ringing them to make sure they were happy. The drivers are trained not just to MiDAS standards but in delivering a caring service to all our customers.
As a small group of volunteers, we worked tirelessly to achieve our aim and we’re extremely pleased with the results of our hard work so far, but we’re only at the beginning of our journey! With a huge increase in demand an awareness of the excellent service we provide, we are at the next stage of our plan which is to increase the amount of services into Northampton, Towcester, Brackley and Banbury from the various parishes. Regular social trips are being organised outside the scheduled routes we operate. And to celebrate Catch the Bus Week, we’re announcing exciting new routes for Paulerspury and Syresham, expanding a service that the local community is quickly coming to rely on.
Our service, and other services like it all across the UK, really do connect people who otherwise wouldn’t be connected. We’ve received some amazing feedback from users about the service:
“This is the best Christmas present ever!”
“A welcome comeback of a service. First-rate!”
“I couldn’t manage without the service as it would mean that I’d have to walk 2.5 miles to get a bus.”
“I’d have to pay £20 each way to get a taxi to go shopping.”
“I have a bus pass, but I’m not able to use it except on your service.”
“The service is a God send, it’s remarkable!”
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the organisation over the last year; we’re looking forward to continuing serving our community as we move forward.
Community Transport Association UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee. Registered in Cardiff no. 1985361 Registered office: 12 Hilton Street M1 1JF. Registered as a charity in England and Wales no. 1002222. Charity Registered in Scotland No. SC038518.