Fears public will be left in lurch if community travel changes confirmed

PUBLISHED: 12:00 27 April 2018

The Churchill and Langford Minibus Society was founded in 1975.

The Churchill and Langford Minibus Society was founded in 1975.

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Changes to the legislation of a 'vital transport service' which has operated for more than 40 years across North Somerset will have a 'major impact' on hundreds of people.

Community Transport Association (CTA) schemes have been running in the Churchill, Congresbury, Nailsea, Wrington and Yatton areas of North Somerset for decades, offering people who have no access to private cars or conventional public bus services a method of transport.

The scheme issues its drivers with section 19 or section 22 permits rather than having to apply for a commercial operator’s licence, because they are not-for-profit and use Minibus Drivers’ Awareness Scheme (MiDAS) training to ensure their transport services are safe and legal.

But following a challenge from a group of commercial bus operators, the Department for Transport has proposed changes to the way CTA schemes should run their services which could see the permits axed.

The changes would mean 95 per cent of all organisations running CTA services will be required to spend large amounts of money to become compliant.

For individual organisations, the cost is dependent on their size and level of development, ranging from £10,000 up to more than £1million.

There could also be implications such as restricting the number of miles per journey to 20.

Alan Purcell, of the Churchill and Langford Minibus Society, believes the survival of many minibus schemes are under threat due to these ‘nonviable costs’.

He said: “ We feel like we are being backed into a corner, when really we are just trying to provide a service to members of the public.

“This is a vital service which helps vulnerable people in our communities go to places such as church, shops, cinemas and social outings.

“It would be devastating if older people or individuals with disabilities could no longer access their community because these services cease to exist, or if youth groups and care homes can not provide transport for day trips or events.

“The authorities will have to make up for these losses because people will be isolated and lonely.”

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