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. In this blog, we hear from Richard Brown, Chairman of OurBus Bartons about how a community came together to save their rural bus services.
Richard Brown, Chairman, OurBus Bartons
I’d like to tell you a story. It’s about a small group of villagers from a village in West Oxfordshire who went from being shocked and scared about cuts to rural public transport, to directors of a limited company, trustees of a registered charity, consulted, recruited and trained volunteers, found a depot, arranged permits and insurance, registered routes, wrote a business plan, acquired start-up funding, opened a bank account, bought a vehicle, and carried out a publicity campaign in just eight months! OurBus Bartons launched on 30th August 2016 after there were significant cuts to local public transport in our community. We had some public meetings to discuss what we could do about it and it was decided that a group would get together and begin working to start a not-for-profit transport charity to bring these services back to the community. Some had experience in operating transport, others didn’t, but everyone was committed to working toward the same thing: better transport in the community, run by the community. The process of setting up a community bus service wasn’t an easy one. There was a steep learning curve and lots of hurdles to overcome but the team worked hard to get everything up and running and a brand new organisation was born. In our first six months, we took 2,578 passengers on our time tabled services, and since then, that number has only increased. We now operate 38 timetabled services a week that serve the village and the surrounding communities as well as hiring the bus out to different community groups, and offering shuttle bus services to certain places or events.
The community use our buses for a lot of different reasons. People want to be able to do their shopping, access hospital or doctors appointments, go to the local garden centres or get into town. We also have a number of commuters who use the bus every day to get into work. One of the most important roles that our vehicles play is providing independence to so many people in the area who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access other forms of transport. Most of our passengers tend to be older people and the services are such a boost to them. Having our fully accessible buses available lets so many people in the village feel independent and able to get out and about on their own without having to worry.
For one passenger in particular, OurBus Bartons meant that she was able to continue living in the village. She had planned to move away because she no longer had any family living with her, but when she was able to get on our bus she decided to stick around and now she frequently sees her friends and gets out and about. At OurBus Bartons, we’re proud that we’re able to connect our local community. As well as our usual routes, we’ve also been able to connect people to local heritage sites such as Barton Abbey, and to important events in the community such as the time we took people up to the church to see the last sermon of a much loved local vicar. We’re also pleased that our services enable people to travel further afield and connect them to other bus routes and local train stations. One of my favourite stories is when our bus pulled up and a passenger got on with a suitcase and told us this was the first leg of her journey on her trip to New Zealand! Her journey started with OurBus Bartons, then she caught another bus and eventually she was on the other side of the world!
There’s a reason why we call our organisation OurBus Bartons and that is because, as a community, it really is our bus. People see it as something that’s provided locally and that they’re part of providing. It’s a community bus service that is run by the community, for the community and that’s what makes this, and community transport across the country, so special. Community involvement is important for the sustainability of the project: we want OurBus Bartons to be around for years to come and whilst the personnel might change, if the community feels like it’s theirs, there will always be people to get involved.
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.