7 April 2011: Evidence to the transport select committee has revealed that community transport cannot be expected to fill the gap left by swingeing bus cuts.
Hailed by many as the cure all for bus cuts, community transport has been the buzzword in many local authority meetings this year. As some authorities axe 100% of their socially necessary bus subsidy we have been told that community transport would be used to mitigate the harm to people and communities. However Keith Halstead of the community transport association, giving evidence to the transport select committee, was asked directly to what extent voluntary transport schemes could plug the gap, particularly in those areas worst hit by bus funding cuts. His answer: by approximately 10 or 15 percent. Having spoken myself to Keith Halstead I should qualify that this estimation really depends on a number of local factors, like political and practical support as well as the skills and free time at the disposal of the community.
The basic point is that community transport does not run on thin air. We welcome the extra money announced for community transport by the government last month. Schemes serving the most remote corners of the country, or schemes working in partnership with other local services like youth clubs or care homes, can really make a huge difference to people who use them.
However there is a real difference between community transport and buses. Community transport is rooted in the capacity and good will of local people. Public transport, funded by the local authority, is all about local government having a responsibility to assess the needs of a community and make sure that an appropriate service exists.
So what can you do? Well we have produced a campaigning guide for beginners to set you off in the right direction. Also, the transport select committee is asking for evidence from bus users. They want to find out what sort of an impact bus cuts are having on the ground. The deadline for written evidence is Easter, so if you have a good grip on the situation in your region, be sure to get your voice heard.