Government gives huge boost to help rural minibus services

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The Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin visited Luddenden Foot based independent charity Community Transport Calderdale on Monday to announce a £25m fund to improve the nation’s fleet by the purchase of hundreds of rural community minibuses.

During the visit, he was introduced to service user Lillian Greenwood, from Todmorden, who uses Community Transport Calderdale’s weekly shopper bus to access the local town and supermarket.

Lillian, who lives nearly two miles from the nearest bus route, uses Community Transport on a regular basis to access the essential things in life including health appointments and groceries.

She told Mr McLouglin: “The only way I can get to the shops and town is with the help of Community Transport. I have been using them since they started 12 years ago and they provide a lifeline for me.”

Volunteer minibus driver, Henry Hutchinson, was also introduced to the Transport Secretary. Henry has volunteered for Community Transport for five years and has driven weekly, making a difference in his own community in Todmorden.

CTC chief executive officer, Paul Jones, told Mr McLoughlin: “We at CTC are delighted with your great news of government investment for community transport groups across the country.

“Our fleet is aging, and, as a not for profit organisation, we are already financially challenged to keep the fleet operational and roadworthy.

“Community Transport Calderdale undertook 60,000 passenger trips last year, filling the transport gap in our local communities.

“We operate a Car Service where 50 volunteers drive their own cars to help people with transport and also operate a fleet of accessible minibuses and people carriers. We have over 5,000 service users in Calderdale that would benefit from this good news story.

“Recently, we were voted by Lloyds Bank customers to receive a grant from their community fund to further operate shopping trips in the area.”

The charity works with Calderdale Council which maintains the charity fleet and run training courses for the minibus drivers.

The charity also operates closely with the local NHS, and has funding from CCG Calderdale and CCG North Kirklees with to help reduce missed health appointments and reduce the need for health professionals to make home visits by bringing local people out of isolation and into their local health centres bringing Care Closer to Home.

Chairman of the Board of Director Trustees at CTC, Ruth Goldthorpe, welcomed the news.

She said: “This move will help our charity to keep its fleet up to date.

“We operate on a not for profit basis, so finding spare money for purchasing new fleet is always very challenging.

“We are all grateful for the appreciation from London of our work and the funding situation we are working with.”