When the lockdown began at the end of March, many organisations stopped in their tracks. But Dorset Community Transport (DCT) has kept services running for key groups of passengers – despite the challenges of the coronavirus.
Transport may not have seemed a priority as the ‘Stay at Home’ message kept people indoors. But for children of key workers or isolated rural residents, getting safely to school or out to the supermarket for essential supplies has remained as important as ever.
Thanks to the dedication of drivers and support staff, almost a quarter of DCT’s ‘home-to-school’ routes have been up and running, providing transport to mainstream schools and for children with special educational needs. Social distancing has been possible thanks to fewer numbers and seating children in different corners of the bus.
DCT even kept several routes going through the Easter holidays and during recent bank holidays – since schools remained open to support parents at work.
General Manager Tim Christian said: “I’m really pleased we have been able to keep the home-to-school services going since the first week of lockdown. Whilst there are very few pupils attending school, this is an important way in which DCT is able to support families throughout this time and, in doing so, contribute to society’s joint efforts.”
Meanwhile, DCT has also kept its local bus and door-to-door PlusBus services in operation, and passengers have been able to catch their regular bus to do their weekly shopping. Just a few basic changes have been made to account for current circumstances, such as shifting the destination to an out-of-town supermarket because the in-town store is closed, and bringing forward the return time.
“In one way it’s not been a big change for some of our passengers,” reflected Tim Christian. “They already live with the challenges of loneliness and isolation, and the weekly shopping trip has been crucial to them for the last four years – not just the last four weeks.”
Although many elderly passengers have been forced to self-isolate, often as part of the government’s ‘shielding’ programme, the DCT team has also been busy supporting them with an initiative the team has dubbed, ‘Just called to say hello’. This is a schedule of phone calls by DCT office staff to regular and previous passengers, to say ‘hello’, see how they are doing, offer any support and advise them of the various sources of support available locally if necessary.
“We are doing our bit to keep in touch with people,” said Tim Christian. “Many were greatly appreciative of the call with some apologetic they were unable to travel! Thankfully, many reported they were receiving support from elsewhere.”
He added: “Several passengers took the opportunity to express their thanks and appreciation for the service, and positive feedback for their driver and bookings staff, all of which of course was great to hear.”
If you need Dorset Community Transport’s support or know somebody who could benefit from our help, please get in touch. Please click here for contact information.