Earlier this year, Dorset County Council ordered a complete road closure in the village of Abbotsbury, Dorset, whilst Wessex Water carried out road works in the area. Dorset Community Transport (DCT) was asked to provide a community bus service for the duration of the water works.
Regular commercial bus services were bypassing the area, but DCT provided a solution with an exemplary minibus shuttle service, keeping communities between West Bay and Portesham connected to Abbotsbury, reducing isolation despite the road closures.
Work got underway to a very wet and blustery start on January 6, and was scheduled to take up to 12 weeks to complete. The service proved a huge success, with DCT maintaining a regular service despite the stormy weather conditions.
The road closures led to a number of complexities for home to school services in the area, but DCT ensured the smooth running of these services.
Henry Ford, Abbotsbury Parish Chairman, said: “The shuttle bus service has been excellent, particularly for the schoolchildren. Your presence here first thing in the morning, seeing that connections were being made, soon allayed fears that residents and children may be left stranded.”
He continued: “Considering the appalling weather, residents were very impressed with the cheerful and helpful nature of all the bus drivers. The ‘door to door’ service was very much appreciated. The friendly nature of your drivers will be greatly missed.”
The shuttle bus service also helped local businesses survive over the weeks. Helen Chapman, owner of the Old School House Tea Rooms, Abbotsbury, said: “Many of my regular customers come from the next village – I’m sure that without the shuttle bus service, my business would have suffered. The drivers were very obliging, dropping people door to door. The public service is just not the same, it’s not the bespoke service that DCT supplied – they provided a better service than the public bus service.”
Tim Christian, General Manager for DCT, said: “Residents have reported an enhanced bus service compared to the service they experience all year round – it really has been championed as a huge success.”
Paul Turner, Mainlaying Supervisor South, Wessex Water, said: “I had anticipated the disruption to the regular bus services to be the biggest challenge for the project. In the end, it proved to be the least of my concerns with everything running smoothly and the service being well received. I would like to thank DCT for their part in making the Abbotsbury scheme a success story.” Alan Marner, Design Engineer at Wessex Water, said: “Without DCT, the scheme would most probably have been deferred. I would like to thank the drivers – they did an excellent job. The shuttle bus service played a key part in the early finish of the scheme as it meant we were able to close the road to through traffic, while keeping Abbotsbury open for business as usual.”
Anna Whitty, CEO of ECT Charity, said: “ECT is very proud of how our community transport service became part of the solution and delivered additional benefits to the community. This can easily be replicated to deliver a community minibus service in similar circumstances or where a village or community has become isolated due to cuts in mainstream bus services.”