Our story begins in 1979, when Ealing Voluntary Services Council (EVSC) started a project to provide transport for Ealing residents whose needs were not being met by other services. Over the next 40 years and more, this project would grow and develop into the ECT Charity of today – a leading provider of community transport, making a difference to people’s lives across the country.
The original EVSC project started with a couple of second-hand vehicles driven by a handful of participants on an Access to Work programme. By 1980 the project had gained more funding, vehicles and a name – Ealing Community Transport – and took on transport services previously delivered by the council. The project became a standalone organisation in 1987, incorporated as an Industrial and Provident Society.
Over the course of the 1980s and early 1990s, the organisation introduced a wide range of community transport services in Ealing. These services included Group Transport – minibuses for community groups; Dial-a-Ride and PlusBus services – individual transport for those who find mainstream transport difficult to use; community car schemes and a furniture recycling project. Many of these services, or services like them, are still running today.
In 1995, Ealing Community Transport began its first “green box” recycling pilot for homes in Ealing, marking the start of a period of rapid growth and diversification. In this phase, Ealing Community Transport would become a pioneer of the newly emerging social enterprise movement, attracting national and international attention.
Over this time, the organisation’s recycling business expanded to serve the London Boroughs of Hounslow, Lambeth, Ealing, and Brent - and the Vale of the White Horse in the South West. Ealing Community Transport’s transport services expand, including a mainstream transport service for Transport for London in 2003 and PlusBus services are launched for residents in Chester, Ellesmere Port and Neston in 2007, a move which establishes ECT in Cheshire, which is still providing services to this day.
Ealing Community Transport also grows through extensive partnerships and joint ventures. These include a partnership with the Bryson Trust to provide recycling services in Northern Ireland; a partnership with Age Concern to establish Milton Keynes Community Transport; and a joint venture with HCT Group to provide transport on the Olympic Park site during its construction. The organisation also entered the community rail sector with the acquisition of Dartmoor Railway and RMS rail engineering in 2004 and reopened the Weardale railway in 2007.
The challenges of sustainably managing such rapid growth and the pressures that diversification had placed on the organisation’s original social mission meant that Ealing Community Transport was at a crossroads. The decision was taken to focus solely on community and public transport and so Ealing Community Transport divested its recycling and rail businesses, and in 2010 it changed its legal form to become a registered charity and company limited by guarantee.
In pursuit of these charitable objectives, Ealing Community Transport founds Dorset Community Transport in 2011, providing community transport, home-to-school routes, transport for those with special educational needs and disabilities, and local bus services. To mark the renewed focus on our charitable objectives, the organisation re-brands as ECT Charity in 2012.
The re-focus on high-social impact services means that ECT Charity is able to apply its deep understanding of accessible transport to the full. In 2012 it assembles and leads a partnership of 24 community transport operators to deliver the accessible shuttles during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In 2014, ECT Charity provides the accessible transport at the Invictus Games and in 2015, the London venues of the Rugby World Cup. In 2017 ECT Charity is chosen as the transport partner for the World Para Athletics Championships and the IAAF World Championships.
In 2015, ECT Charity develops a new service in partnership with Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group – PlusBus for Health. The service provides transport to GP surgeries for those who would otherwise require a home visit - decreasing missed appointments, saving GP time and improving well-being.
In 2018, ECT Charity develops and distributes its Social Value Toolkit – an affordable method that allows community transport operators to quickly calculate the value they are bringing to their service users and wider communities. The toolkit supports the work of not just ECT Charity, but dozens of other operators nationwide.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant that many ECT Charity service users were shielding and unable to travel. For everyone else, non-essential travel was actively discouraged. To support service users during an extremely difficult time, ECT Charity switched from taking vulnerable people to things – to taking things to vulnerable people. We collaborated with our communities and partners in the public and third sectors, delivering supplies to vulnerable people. As the world began to open up between lockdowns, ECT charity was there to help, ensuring that children could get to school, that older people could get to the shops and day centres and that vulnerable people could attend vaccination centres – all with the adaptations necessary to deliver safe services.
Our focus now is on helping communities adapt and thrive post-pandemic, supporting our service users to get out and about once more.