Cornwall, although picturesque with rugged cliffs and beautiful sandy beaches, hides areas of deprivation and pockets of low income amongst its sparse population. Each year Cornwall Council spends approximately £6 million on Supported Bus Services to provide local bus services in the region and £5.2 million in reimbursements to bus companies for the carriage of English National Concessionary Travel pass holders. This support sustains around 50% of the network and provides transport for communities for socially necessary journeys.
However even with such support, the county’s demography results in areas of low patronage and gaps in community connectivity. This is where Community Transport steps in.
Where conventional public transport is not available, a range of Community Bus, Community Car, Shopmobility, Moped Hire and Electric Bike Loan schemes provide valuable services on a daily basis. Over 50,000 passenger journeys are provided annually by the 15 such groups receiving funding from Cornwall Council.
At Cornwall Council, we recognise the important contribution these services provide to the overall transport network and encourage their development, as well as their individual community-focused spirit, to combat the issues they have identified locally.
The Council has undertaken a year-long review of our relationship with these active community minded groups, with the aim of improving communication channels and encouraging like-minded organisations to work closer together. An example of this is sharing vehicles to reduce the number of days where assets are under-utilised.
Alongside traditional grant funding, which we base on passenger numbers for socially necessary journeys to reflect the impact each group has on our residents, we work with groups to identify external funding opportunities, share information about best practice and support them in the process of writing bid applications. During the past year we have funded places for groups to take part in MiDAS and Safeguarding training in order to upskill volunteers within the sector and to give assurance to those residents reliant on these services.
We recognise there are three main challenges to our groups – funding, volunteer recruitment and publicity. As part of our future plan of support, Cornwall Council is looking at how, as a Local Authority, we can assist groups to raise their profile within the region.
Looking forward, Cornwall is embarking on an exciting initiative called the One Public Transport System for Cornwall with the aim of increasing access for the residents and visitors to our County through public transport. This ambitious programme includes improving the information provided to residents, enhancing ticketing products and bettering the infrastructure available at roadside. Community Transport will continue to be very much part of the mix, providing feeder services into the wider network.
Cornwall will continue to be a County of volunteering with communities who take the initiative in providing solutions to access issues. The Local Authority will continue to provide support, information and where possible, funding to new and existing groups whilst also encouraging further better use of existing resources and promoting best practice and collaborative approaches.
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.