The Community Transport Association’s Westminster Conference was an exceptional day of discussion, participation and engagement from those across the transport sector. You can find our recaps of the day’s panels and discussions here:
After the final panel, the conference was drawn to a close by Bill Freeman, Chief Executive of the Community Transport Association whose closing remarks on the future of our sector are worth reading, or listening too, in their entirety:
“We work for a better world where individuals are able to design their own ground-up transport solutions, placing accessibility and inclusivity centre stage in a way that nobody else ever has.
Pick any village, town or city and you are likely to find people whose lives and choices are diminished because they cannot get to the places they want or need to be.
This is the older person feeling isolated because the bus that used to take them to the shops has stopped running, the young person who cannot find a job they can get to which will make the most of their talents, the carer who has had too much time off work already to take her mum to her weekly treatment at the hospital.
Our movement grew up because, in and around every one of those villages, towns and cities, there were people who felt a fire inside them when they saw these unmet needs and aspirations. They channeled that passion for a better world into designing their own DIY transport solutions from the ground up.
Our movement does not have a monopoly on accessible and inclusive transport – indeed many of the ideas that will inspire and inform how things are done may sit beyond the current reach of CTA and its network.
Our uniqueness comes from being the people who choose to spend every minute and every pound we have in advancing the cause of accessible and inclusive transport so that people can live, learn, work, participate and belong.
And we will use that time and resource to build the networks and relationships that can challenge and inspire us to say ‘what if?’
We are unique because of our relentless pursuit of our vision; and we are resilient in the face of challenges and questions that do nothing but weaken our ability to make the biggest difference we can in the communities we serve.
We have many strong and deep roots as a movement, but so much of what we do today has evolved in the last 30 years since bus deregulation. People often talk about those changes leaving the needs of passengers to the market, but nobody should forget that they were also about leaving the needs of some people to the community.
Those regulations provided a safe and legal framework for groups of people to come together with confidence and authority to fix holes that could never be filled by commercial operators and the market.
Over the last three decades we have seen many initiatives and innovations which have made the mainstream transport network more accessible and inclusive, all of which should be celebrated. But many unmet needs remain and new ones emerge all the time. As one hole closes more open up.
We have heard today that whilst this all makes so much sense to us, scrutiny over what we do and how we do it has grown to the point where we need to remake the case for community transport.
As I said in the session earlier, we have to make the case for why our sector needs to be cherished and protected so we can continue to make a difference in every community across this country.
At the same time we need to demonstrate that we can lead the debate on how we can develop and modernise so we can go about our work with the confidence of regulators, policy makers, commissioners and crucially and most importantly our passengers.
Our vision is of a more integrated transport network built from the ground up. We think the Government deserves a good hearing on its ideas for devolving more decisions about local transport. However, many organisations are finding it hard to listen when faced with the reality of cuts to local government funding and their impact on socially necessary services as well as demand responsive community transport.
We want to use the new impetus for greater integration arising from the Buses Bill to lead to the community having a greater say over what their local transport is like and, where they can, design their own transport solutions with accessibility and inclusivity built into them from the beginning.
Over these last three decades we at CTA have found ways to refresh our vision for our unique and unrivalled contribution to the world and as we approach our 30th anniversary in 2016 we feel it’s a good opportunity to do the same again.
So next year we’ll be coming back to you get your ideas about a new vision for the difference we as CTA want to make to the world.
We want to free ourselves up to spend all day every day advancing the cause of accessible and inclusive transport in all parts of our country.
We also need to think about our connectivity with the train as much as the bus and have a clearer story about a world where not owning a car is not a barrier to achievement or aspiration, whether you are a disabled person, an older person, unemployed or living with a long term condition.
For all of our talk of money, vehicles, and permits – it is the passion, imagination and tenacity of good people doing great work which makes the biggest difference. Whilst resources are finite – passion, imagination and tenacity are not.
It is a pleasure and privilege to spend my days meeting good people with big hearts who have come together to do great things – talented people who could have put their time and energy to any use they liked, but instead chose to channel their passion, imagination and tenacity into enriching the lives of others through delivering community transport.
I hope you have enjoyed our conference today and that we have been able to challenge and inspire you. Just as you challenge and inspire us at the CTA.
Thank you very much and have safe journey home.”