Community transport

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Social enterprises now operate 220 bus services in England

13 September 2012 by Julie Pybus

More and more local bus services in England are being provided by social enterprises and voluntary organisations as public funding cuts bite and commercial operators pull out of isolated communities.

The latest State of the Sector Report for England, published today by the Community Transport Association (CTA), shows a dramatic growth in the number of permits issued to run community bus services – routes for the general public – from 10 in 2008/9 to 148 in 2011/12. There are now 220 such routes in England run by community transport organisations.

The report also highlighted that the community transport sector as a whole is growing and that organisations are exploring new approaches to getting people out and about.

Launching the report this morning, local transport minister Norman Baker said: “Good community transport is essential in making sure that people – particularly those in remote, rural areas – can access essential services as well as employment and training.” The CTA’s chief executive Keith Halstead said: “This report raises the profile of community transport, showing what it is and what it can achieve. It also provides evidence of the continued growth of the sector.”

Local authorities are often keen to encourage community transport organisations to provide local bus services. In Gloucestershire, for example, four community transport organisations are working with the council to replace commercial routes that have been axed. Other types of community transport were highlighted in the report, including a new door-to-door service in a rural area of South Staffordshire, run by the social enterprise Community Transport, which is partially funded by a clinical commissioning group of GPs to help get people to health appointments.

However, Mr Halstead warned funding remained a challenge for the community transport sector, especially as the Bus Service Operators Grant – a fuel rebate for all operators – has been cut this year and is now under further review.

Source: Julie Pybus, editor of CTA Journal, the Community Transport Association's quarterly magazine, in Social Enterprise, 14 Sep 12 - http://www.socialenterpriselive.com/section/news/public-services/20120913/social-enterprises-drive-gaps-local-bus-market