Cheshire West and Chester Council currently provide over 100,000 Community Transport journeys a year for approximately 800 residents.
The current contract to provide this service is due to end in March 2021, users of the service are invited to take part in a consultation to comment on proposals to ensure the community transport meets their needs for the future.
In all parts of the UK, on every day of the year, thousands of Community Transport staff and volunteers are helping people to stay independent, participate in their communities and access vital public services and employment. Community Transport provides flexible and accessible community-led solutions. This is often the only means of transport for many vulnerable and isolated people, often older people or people with disabilities.
Typical services include, community bus services, dial a ride and group hire services, voluntary car schemes and school or college transport, which transports residents, from home to a specified destination.
Councillor Karen Shore, Cabinet Member Highways and Strategic Transport said: “We have a number of proposals to share with people who use the service.
“Our Community Transport services operate alongside commercial bus services, as well as bus services which the council has to help sustain through its own funding. Bus services across the country have been under a lot of pressure for many years, and many have stopped operating.
“Although this consultation is about Community Transport, these services cannot be seen as separate from other bus services which the council wants to sustain. The Council is conducting a wider review of our work to protect and extend bus services, including for school pupils and in rural areas. The views collected through this Community Transport consultation will help ensure this wider review fully reflects your views.
“We will use these opinions to make sure the service continues to offer transport to as many residents as possible.”
There will be drop in sessions at:
- March 2 – Wyvern House, Winsford
- March 3 – Frodsham Community Centre
- March 4 – Forum Shopping Centre, Chester
- March 5 – Tarvin Community Centre
- March 9 – Neston Community Youth Centre
- March 10 – Tarporley & District Community Centre
- March 12 – Ellesmere Port Civic Hall
- March 17 – Parade Enterprise Centre (Blacon)
- February 18 – Malpas Village Hall
- February 19 – Northwich Memorial Court
Every venue will host a morning drop in event between 10am and 12 noon, and an afternoon drop in event between 4pm to 6pm (with the exception of Tarvin Community Centre when the afternoon event will take place between 3pm and 5pm).
There is a suggestion to provide the service to a greater number of residents for example, transport routes to college for students with Special Educational Needs (SEN), rural transport routes and routes to medical centres. It is also proposed to offer communities an opportunity to start their own volunteer Community Transport driver schemes. This would include advice on how to set up a scheme, and how to operate taking into account safety and legal regulations.
Community Transport routes are arranged around requests for transport received from residents, there is a proposal to look at the demand for more regular routes. This proposal will provide the potential to add extra routes and vehicles meaning that more people are able to access the service in the future. It may reduce the availability of community transport at school times.
It is the Council’s ambition to become a carbon neutral borough by 2045. There are options for using more environmentally friendly vehicles.
Some areas of the Borough are served by Community Transport on multiple days each week whilst others have much less provision, the new proposals are looking to remove duplicate routes in some cases, reducing unnecessary mileage, making routes as efficient as possible.
Fares charged for the service, which have not risen in five years currently contribute around 15 per cent of the total running costs with the remaining costs of over £1 million subsidised by the Council. The Council would like residents to provide their thoughts on what they would consider to be a reasonable fare for community transport services. The Council would also like views on annual fare reviews which may impact on changes to fares during the life of the contract. This will ensure that the Council can continue to deliver a high standard of service in the future.
The consultation questionnaire is available online on the Council’s website, views can be emailed to: CommunityTransport.Consultation@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk or dropped off on one of the community transport buses.