At the CTA South East Roadshow in June, delegates were encouraged to discuss partnerships with commercial organisations. I shared the following example.
At Compaid, we pride ourselves on our partnership approach, and are always open to opportunities to expand our Transport service. So when a housing developer, Dandara, announced last year that they were building 550 new homes outside Tunbridge Wells, and required a commuter shuttle bus to the nearby railway station, we were keen to meet up.
Dandara had already approached the commercial bus operators in Tunbridge Wells, but as the Knights Wood estate would be built over several years, none of them were interested in starting a service that would take a long while to build up passenger numbers.
We took a different approach. Our fleet of accessible minibuses were not in use during the rush hour peaks of 6.00am-8.00am and 6.00pm-8.00pm, and our vehicle yard was just 6 miles from the new development. With some of our salaried drivers interested in overtime work, it didn’t take long to plan a potential solution to meet Dandara’s needs.
As our fleet normally carries disabled and frail elderly people on essential journeys, we were well versed in Section 19 permits and legislation. The Knights Wood service, however, had to be registered with the Traffic Commissioner under a Section 22 permit. This required a quick learning curve, but DVSA staff were very helpful in taking us through the paperwork.
The service launched in June last year, with Dandara agreeing to underwrite the direct costs of running the shuttle bus for a minimum of three years. The expectation was that over this time frame, passenger fares – currently £1 each way – would build up to cover our full costs. Just twelve months in, we are making 300 passenger journeys a month, and the Knights Wood development is in the next phase of house building and sales.
Working with Dandara, we achieved a lot of local press coverage about the service, and the success of this initiative has led to discussions with other local developers, and raised our profile and standing with commercial bus operators. With further cuts coming to scheduled bus services in our part of Kent, we can see plenty of similar partnerships on the horizon.
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