ECT Charity is dedicated to inclusion and accessibility for all members of society, whatever their transport needs – and whatever the weather!
As our latest Journey Makers story from Cornwall demonstrates, we always go the extra mile to ensure the safety, comfort and well-being of our passengers, who rely on our dedicated team to deliver the transport they need, even in some very challenging circumstances.
We all know that weather forecasters sometimes get things wrong. But in Cornwall on Thursday 31 January, nobody was expecting such a snowy surprise.
As community transport driver Kevin Tait, and passenger assistant Michelle Searle, set off from a special educational needs (SEN) school in St Austell to return their young passengers to their remote home addresses, their progress was halted by a blockage ahead.
Despite forecasters predicting only some heavy rain in Cornwall that afternoon, a sudden flurry of snow had trapped a lorry on a country road ahead – and as the snow continued falling, a queue of traffic began to form behind our minibus. Two pupils with specific needs were still on board, and the team needed to get them home as swiftly as possible.
Meanwhile, another service was experiencing difficulties on the hilly terrain of St Austell, as it delivered pupils back home from a SEN school in Truro.
With one young passenger still on board, driver Paul Lesworth and passenger assistant Sue Tidy were forced to halt their minibus to avoid a slippery slope on the estate they had been serving.
Training, commitment and community spirit
With so much to deal with over a wide geographical area, the training, professionalism and commitment of all those involved kicked in to resolve the situation.
Community spirit was also running high – including one mother who offered shelter for the night, and the kind staff of a remote tyre workshop who delivered hot drinks and allowed use of their toilet facilities when Kevin and Michelle stopped outside.
After keeping their young passengers entertained with the radio and renditions of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’, Michelle and Kevin liaised with the pupils’ families and got them safely home. Kevin then managed to deliver Michelle home, and arrived back himself nearly six hours since setting off earlier that afternoon.
Back on the other service, Paul and Sue also delivered their last passenger safely to his mother. Facing a long – and mostly uphill – journey back themselves, Sue was picked up by her husband, and Paul eventually managed to move away in his minibus and make the painstakingly slow and steady journey out of town to get home.
Everyone awoke the next morning to national headlines of Cornwall’s snowfall, with tales of hundreds of stranded road users spending the night on the floors of a college and roadside inn.
A tremendous effort
“I’m so proud of everybody who came together to help us get through this challenging situation and I want to pay tribute to the determination, perseverance and caring approach shown by all our staff,” says Tim Christian, General Manager.
“A tremendous effort from Kevin, Michelle, Paul and Sue – and those who offered support from the local community – saw everyone reach home safely.”
Tim adds: “All the parents affected were completely understanding, and the Cornwall team have received overwhelmingly positive feedback about how well the situation was handled.
“Well done to all – everybody went above and beyond the call of duty – but let’s hope the weather forecasters get it right next time!”