MIDHURST and Billingshurst are among 300 communities across rural England which will receive a transport boost after new £25m central government funding was announced.
Successful bidders will each receive a nine to 16-seater minibus, specifically tailored to their requirements, including disability-friendly access and adapted seating.
It is especially welcome as one of our vehicles is damaged and needs repairs
And among them are Tandem, the Midhurst-based community bus service, and Billingshurst Community Transport.
Norman Coleshill, treasurer of Tandem which relies on volunteer drivers, told the Observer the group was delighted with the news which meant one of its four vehicles would be replaced.
“Two of our vehicles are over ten years old. They are still reliable so we were not going to deplete our own funds by buying a new one, but when this opportunity came along it was not to be missed.
“It is especially welcome as one of our vehicles is damaged and needs repairs to the tune of some £1,600.”
The funding also means a new vehicle for Billingshurst Community Transport – a scheme available for the elderly, disabled and frail residents of Billingshurst, Ifold, Kirdford, Plaistow, Loxwood and Shipley. The service enables registered passengers to get to medical appointments, day centres, shops, leisure and other non-urgent appointments.
A spokesman said: “The journeys are carried out by our group of dedicated volunteer drivers and, at present, we provide support for over 500 passengers.
“This gives them the freedom to attend various appointments and places which they may have difficulty accessing.
“The scheme has a wheelchair accessible vehicle, which makes transferring to and from the vehicle easier for our less mobile clients.”
Announcing the successful bidders, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the minibuses would improve the everyday lives of people in rural communities and provide a vital link to medical services, shops, and social events.
Following this first round of allocations, the department for transport is looking to use the community transport minibus fund to support more schemes this summer, said Mr McLoughlin.
“I know first-hand how important transport providers like these can be to keep rural areas alive and protect the independence of residents,” he said.
“They are often the lifeblood of communities so it is only right the government gives them the support they deserve.”
“We have had an overwhelming response, which demonstrates the importance of this fund.”