Changes to ‘vital’ transport services could affect hundreds of people

PUBLISHED: 08:00 25 May 2018

The Churchill and Langford Minibus Society was founded in 1975. Picture: Mark Atherton

The Churchill and Langford Minibus Society was founded in 1975. Picture: Mark Atherton

Archant

Hundreds of people could be affected by changes to the legislation of a transport service which is a ‘lifeline’ to many.

Community Transport Association (CTA) schemes have been running in the Weston-super-Mare, Yatton, Wedmore, Wrington, Congresbury, Langford, Blagdon and Churchill areas of the Mercury patch for decades, offering people who have no access to private cars or conventional public bus services a method of transport.

MORE: North Somerset could have transport services other places ‘could only dream of’.

The scheme issues its drivers with section 19 or section 22 permits rather than having to apply for a commercial operator’s licence, because they are not-for-profit and use Minibus Drivers’ Awareness Scheme (MiDAS) training to ensure their transport services are safe and legal.

Users pay for a membership scheme which lasts for 12 months.

But following a challenge from a group of commercial bus operators, the Department for Transport has proposed changes to the way CTA schemes should run their services which could see the permits axed.

The changes would mean 95 per cent of all organisations running CTA services will be required to spend large amounts of money to become compliant.

For individual organisations, the cost is dependent on their size and level of development, ranging from £10,000 up to more than £1million.

There could also be implications such as restricting the number of miles per journey to 20.

Alan Purcell, of the Churchill and Langford Minibus Society, believes the survival of many minibus schemes are under threat due to these ‘non-viable costs’.

He said: “We feel like we are being backed into a corner, when really we are just trying to provide a service to members of the public.

“This is a vital service which is a lifeline for people in our communities as it allows them to go to places such as church, shops, cinemas and social outings so adding costs which are simply not viable is very concerning.

“It would be devastating if older people or individuals with disabilities could no longer access their community because these services cease to exist, or if youth groups and care homes cannot provide transport for day trips or events.

“The authorities will have to make up for these losses because people will be isolated and lonely.”

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