Blandford-based community transport organisation, Dorset Community Transport (DCT), is helping to reduce the impact of cuts on rural transport routes across the county by operating services on almost half of the routes previously run by Dorset County Council.
In April 2016, Dorset County Council was forced to reduce spending on subsidising public transport by £500,000, as a result of reductions to its funding from central government.
The biggest impact of these cuts was on rural bus services operating one or two days a week, with support for 26 services withdrawn, including five routes run by DCT.
At the time, DCT was running a pilot scheme of accessible, door-to-door transport for people who find it difficult to use public transport through its PlusBus service. The end of the pilot coincided with the cuts, allowing DCT to offer 12 services to the community, covering almost half of the bus routes that had been cut.
DCT also decided to subsidise two of the services that it ran for Dorset County Council on an interim basis, as part of the organisations charitable objectives.
Service user, Ella Smith, said: “I’ve been a keen supporter of PlusBus since the withdrawal of the bus services were announced. I can use the service to get into Blandford for my weekly shop and Doctor’s visits. It means everything to me, a total life line.”
Tim Christian, general manager at DCT, said: “The council changes happened within a very short time frame and it meant the local community did not have time to come together and find an alternative. However, due to the fact that DCT was already running a pilot, we were able to jump in very quickly with a solution to provide continuity and meet the essential transport needs of the area.”
Passengers will need to pre-book their journey. We are offering a variety of weekly services to a destination town across the county. It is possible to make one-off bookings and also arrange regular weekly bookings.
Tim continued: “It’s been a big cultural change for the community, but we have worked hard to engage with people on how community transport schemes can be more responsive to their needs for social and leisure journeys. We were overwhelmed by demand, queries and concerns. Now we have been able to settle into the routes that we run, the next step is to improve, refine and expand the service according to the needs identified by the community.”
Anna Whitty, CEO of ECT Charity, said: “DCT was able to respond at such short notice because we are an established and professional provider across the county, running successful and extensive services.
“This is a great example of how community transport can provide a solution for those that are unable to access public transport by virtue of geographic isolation. It’s not about replicating other existing successful bus schemes, but about plugging the gaps and, in so doing, reducing rural isolation.”
For more information on the services and routes operated by DCT and how to book a journey, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01258 287980.