This time in our Journey Makers series, one Dorset Community Transport (DCT) passenger proves that with the right transport services available, age is just a number...
Passengers boarding the DCT Service 88 into Wimborne recently would have been surprised to see a bus festooned in party decorations, as they were invited to join in on a very special celebration.
The festivities had been arranged for regular passenger Eddie Drake – who was turning 100 that very day.
Following a jovial bus journey which included a birthday song and sweet treats being handed around, visiting family members then accompanied Eddie to the Wimborne café where he usually goes for breakfast once a week.
The celebrations were all made possible thanks to DCT driver Steve Wardman, who often takes Eddie on his trips into town and, from their frequent chats, had discovered that he was going to be celebrating the beginning of his second century.
Eddie’s son Keith described the celebration as “a lovely gesture”. He commented: “A normal bus service or a taxi just wouldn’t know about his birthday. But Steve, the bus driver, was the one who suggested the celebrations. It’s a caring service, and a personal one. Steve knows my dad, and my dad knows him.”
Keith says his father also values the relationship he has built with the other passengers on the bus. “Just knowing that he’s still going out and seeing other people is great. He has friends on the bus, if you look at the picture (see image above), that’s the lady he sits next to on the bus every week. On his birthday, everyone on the bus knew him and they all sang happy birthday to him.”
Being able to use DCT’s services has meant that being 100 has not stopped his dad from travelling independently, adds Keith. “It’s great to know that he’s got the wherewithal at his age to want to go on the bus and go into town and get his pension and have a cup of tea and a sandwich.”
He adds that Service 88 is a lifeline for several residents of the estate where Eddie lives. And when Dorset County Council funding cuts meant the service was temporarily withdrawn in July 2017, he was concerned that many of them would suffer.
“I wrote to Dorset County Council and said ‘why have you stopped the bus?’.
“It’s a big estate with a lot of elderly people – so there is no way the people who live there could get up to Wimborne without getting in a taxi. A lot of people haven’t got the money to do that, so the bus is vital for them. My dad missed the service when it went, that’s for certain.”
Tim Christian, general manager at DCT, says he is thrilled that DCT – with financial support from Wimborne Minster Town Council, Wimborne Business Improvement District and Colehill Parish Council – was able to get the service back up and running just four months after it was cut. The route has subsequently received support from Sturminster Marshall Parish Council.
“We are delighted to be working with local town and parish councils to continue to offer people what might be their only chance in a week to get out. Whether they are going shopping for groceries, visiting their GP – or like Eddie, heading to a café for a change of scenery and some breakfast.
“As Eddie’s story shows, even turning 100 doesn’t have to stop you from being independent and mobile if accessible and affordable community transport options are available.”
Do you know someone that could use Dorset Community Transport to stay active and independent? Contact the team on 01258 287980.