On the day when London transport came to a halt, ECT (Ealing Community Transport) and fellow community transport organisations were out and about helping hundreds of disabled, vulnerable and older people to make their Christmas Day journeys.
Figures collated this week from community transport organisations across the Capital reveal that they provided over 115 vehicles on Christmas Day, backed by scores of dedicated volunteers.
Anna Whitty, Chief Executive of ECT and Chair of the London Strategic Community Transport Forum, commented: “ECT, along with other community transport providers and local organisations, demonstrated selfless dedication to their service users in a joint effort highlighted by the Christmas Day service. Community transport was one of the only services available to disabled, vulnerable and older people on Christmas Day and the services we provide are much needed and extremely valued by our users. Our transport services seek to mobilise and engage people with their local communities and meet the needs of people who don’t have access to taxis, buses or cars.”
One example was Wandsworth Community Transport (see photo), who mobilised its entire fleet of 25 buses with the equivalent number of minibus drivers and provided over 30 wheelchairs as part of a local partnership with Battersea Park Rotary Club. For the past 50 years, Battersea Park Rotary Club has held a Christmas Day lunch for more than 400 disabled and older people in Wandsworth.
Managing Director of Wandsworth Community Transport, Manuel Button, said of this year’s effort: “We know from our many passengers who attend, that the Battersea Park Rotary Club lunch is incredibly important to them and it really helps to make their Christmas. Wandsworth Community Transport is just a small part of the operation with other community transport organisations and local organisations also getting involved- but it does make you wonder how on earth they could manage without all our help. After all, there is no other transport available on Christmas Day and we do invaluable work engaging and mobilising community members who may otherwise be stuck at home on their own. It certainly makes me proud to work in the community transport sector and is a great example of how we fill the gaps left by mainstream transport services and make good things happen.”
A Wandsworth Community Transport service user on Christmas Day said: “The team at WCT assured me they would do everything possible to secure the appropriate vehicle for our needs. And true to their word, on the evening before Christmas Day we were able to collect a mobility vehicle from them. This meant that my brother who lives with Muscular Dystrophy and is a wheelchair user was able to join the whole family for what turned out to be one of our happiest family gatherings ever. We owe a debt of gratitude to WCT, they are a lifeline that we could not do without.”
ECT employee and mini-bus driver volunteer for over 40 years Cynthia Alleeson says of her Christmas Day passengers: “It’s all about helping people. My passengers have said they are so grateful for our service and that if it weren’t for us, most of them would not be able to get out of the house! Quite a lot of regular users are now dear friends but they all become part of your life - even if only for one day a year.”
Community transport is the only safe, accessible and flexible travel option for some community members. Services generally consist of day trips, group transport, door–to-door transport, shopping services, and services often in partnership with local councils or charities such as home-to-school and park-and-ride journeys.