#CatchtheBusWeek | Ilfracombe Community Transport and Transport for Tongue
This Catch the Bus Week, we’re sharing the stories of community transport providers who connect their communities through running vital community bus routes and services. Without community transport, so many of the people who depend on these services would be left alone, without the transport they rely on. Below are the stories of two of our members: Ilfracombe and District Community Transport, and Transport for Tongue.
Ilfracombe and District Community Transport
Shirley Jones, Ilfracombe and District Community Transport
Ilfracombe & District Community Transport has been operating for over 40 years, helping elderly, disabled and socially isolated members over a wide area of North Devon to lead independent and fulfilling lives. Using Section 19 permits, we offer Ring and Ride, ‘Out and About’ social trips and community group hire from just north of Bude in the west, along the coast and villages inland to Woolacombe, Combe Martin, Lynton and Lynmouth to the Somerset border. This is a huge rural area to cover which we took on when a neighbouring community transport provider had to close down.
We have always been keen to take on new challenges and when Barnstaple Job Centre asked us to a meeting in 2014 to discuss the lack of evening transport in the Mortehoe/Woolacombe area to get employees to their work in the hotels, pubs and holiday camps there, we were keen to help out. Local employers were desperate for staff and there was a pool of unemployed people willing to work but without transport.
We found out that we needed a Section 22 permit to take this on, obtained it and with financial help from local Councillors, others and Devon County Council, we made a 7-night-a-week commitment to run a bus service over the summer holiday period at 6 pm from Ilfracombe, returning at 11.30 pm to take people home. This was reasonably well supported so the following year, with financial support as before, we continued starting at Easter and going on until the October half-term. Unfortunately the number of passengers dropped off and because no more financial support was available, the service ceased, to the disappointment of those who used it regularly. However there was a positive outcome as one particular passenger was able to increase his hours of work so much that he could buy his own car and took along three or four others who had previously used the minibus! Employers in the area still only employ people who can guarantee their own transport.
A further opportunity to use our Section 22 permit came in 2016 when the local public bus company handed back its contract for daily bus services around Ilfracombe. Ilfracombe is very hilly and has a high percentage of elderly people with mobility difficulties. The loss of the public services would be keenly felt. Devon County Council asked us if we would take the routes on, although on a reduced time-table, only 2 days a week. With financial help from Devon County Council and Ilfracombe Town Council to purchase a ticketing machine, we run a circular route taking in two nearby parishes and two steep parts of the town on a ‘hail and ride’ basis as we found some passengers were not mobile enough to get to their nearest bus stop. Our driver is constantly being told that the service is a ‘life-line’ and how much it is appreciated. It is to be hoped that all our services will continue well into the future.
Transport for Tongue
Janette Wyper, Transport for Tongue
Transport for Tongue (T4T) has developed from a part time voluntary group providing transport on demand, into a service which required considerable expertise and governance. The services which are offered to the local community are Door to Door (D2D) services for local shopping and medical appointments and Section 22 registered bus routes.
As our community bus routes are run under a section 22 permit, they’re agreed and registered with the Traffic Commissioners and provide a bus service for the community without a view to profit. Concessionary bus passes are accepted, so that people from Tongue, Durness, Skerray, Strathnaver and Melness can travel free of charge. This bus service can also be used by the general public, so locals and tourists are encouraged to book a seat.
One of our services is to Lairg station on Wednesdays which meets trains going south and coming north and on the last Saturday of the month a bus makes a return trip to Inverness. Two additional services to Lairg station to meet trains are being considered for next spring, since the only other transport available, the Post Bus, has been withdrawn
In response to local demand, we’ve also added a daily return journey from Melness to Thurso. This runs in college term time to take local students to the North Highland College. Previously it was not possible for a student to attend FE college and remain living in the family home in Melness, Tongue or Skerray because there was no public transport matching the college day. The only public bus, which left from Bettyhill, twelve miles east of Melness, arrived one hour before college began and left mid- afternoon before classes finished, the journey ending in Bettyhill. This disadvantaged the young students who wanted to continue in education and also impacted on adults who wished to continue further education. No public funding is available for this vital service but T4T will continue to seek financial support from funders who value our efforts to promote education and increase opportunity in our remote, rural parish.
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.