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Community transport’s

future is under threat

    Andrea Kirk  
COMMUNITY transport services are coming under threat after being informed by The Department for Transport that they intend to review legislation. The Department for Transport (DfT) has advised community transport groups that as a result of a challenge from a very small number of commercial transport businesses they intend to review how they have interpreted legislation since 1989 which could impact locally in the East Riding on the HART community transport bus service. In 1989 The European Commission recognised that community transport use of mini buses to provide mobility for the vulnerable and disadvantaged was very important and created a special exemption for not for profit community transport groups. It is now suggesting that community transport groups should also be subject to public service regulations and become a commercial business needing a trained transport manager and special driving qualifications for drivers. As the Gazette goes to press on Wednesday, October 11 at the East Riding of Yorkshire full council meeting Cllr Jane Evison will ask for the
support of the council in a motion asking that a letter goes to the Minister of Transport and local MP’s supporting a full review of the regulation but seeking an outcome which does not damage the community transport service in the area. Cllr Jane Evison, who chairs the Holderness Area Rural Transport (HART) group, said: “These proposed changes are a national threat to community transport but my concern is predominantly for our provision in the East Riding. Over recent years with support from ERYC, three main community transport groups have developed services, which meet the needs of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our area. These three Community Transport groups work closely with each other and most importantly with the private sector company East Yorkshire Motor Services. “If the challenge to the current law is successful community transport will not be able to continue as a not for profit charity and will need to become a commercial business if they are to be allowed to continue to bid for small contracts. “HART provided 45,518 passenger journeys last year, all of which provide a lifeline to those people who use the service. Unlike commercial operators, community transport doesn’t undertake work to make profit, we do it to help people and address social isolation, I can’t believe that the DfT have really thought through the full benefit of community transport and the implication to our growing elderly population if they proceed with their plans to destroy a service that we have spent years building.” Caroline Wegrzyn, business manager at HART, said: “There is a lot of uncertainty of how the DfT will apply regulations. Community transport in the East Riding fill the gaps left by the commercial public bus services in rural villages and cater for the less mobile. A large portion of services are nowhere near sustainable from fares, we are only able to operate them because of the generosity of our wonderful volunteers who commit their time to help their communities. Our shopper services are very popular; these are often the only time some of our passengers get out and about. “Our Medibus service is also heavily subsidised by the use of volunteers, the service takes away the worry of getting to and from health care appointments at a time when people have health worries to deal with or hospital visitors who are desperate to see a family member. It is the more vulnerable in our communities that rely on community transport. For all our services, we consult with our communities on the issues they face and working together we find a solution. It is all about communities coming together to help themselves, which is what governments encourage and require, it seems crazy that the DfT would potentially put all this at risk.”
The Holderness Gazette - Serving News to the Holderness Region