Community bus services in England, Scotland and Wales are run using section 22 permits which allow community transport operators to run local, not for profit bus services, for the benefit of the community. They’re a significant part of the community transport sector’s commitment to ensure that everyone can get where they need to be, no matter their circumstances.
Just like any other public bus service, community bus services have their routes and timetables registered with the traffic commissioner and are available to members of the general public. Unlike commercial bus operators, however, community transport providers who run a community bus route on a section 22 permit never do so for a profit. This means that a greater variety of needs can be met, especially for vulnerable and isolated people and communities.
As part of Catch the Bus Week, we wanted to take a look at the role of community transport in running scheduled community bus routes on a section 22 permits, and the enormous impact they have on their communities.
Cuckmere Community Bus, Polegate, East Sussex
Cuckmere Buses was set up 41 years ago to replace services which commercial operators could no longer afford to run. They now run 25 services, only two of which receive support from the County Council, and the others being run on their own account. They work with commercial and other community transport operators in an area-wide ticketing scheme to make using their busses as easy as possible for the public.
They also connect passengers with trains and other bus services to give access to the more rural areas of their community where the lanes are too narrow for full size buses to access.
“We speak with all of our Parish and District Councils to match our services as closely to the need as we can,” said Phillip Ayres, Managing Director, “and as a result carry nearly 100,000 passengers each year. Our pool of around 60 volunteer drivers are all assessed to a nationally recognised driving standard and many also have a ‘Customer Host’ accreditation. Our annual passenger satisfaction survey shows that over 90% of our passengers are very satisfied with our service.”
Preseli Rural Transport Association, Pembrokeshire, Wales
The Preseli Rural Transport Association, known locally as the Green Dragon Bus, currently holds 11 section 22 permits which allow it to run 22 registered community bus routes.
Their services, however, cross several local authority boundaries which cause significant complications. Green Dragon Bus is situated in the part of Pembrokeshire that borders both Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire and, as such, making arrangements with different councils and dealing with the differences in concessionary fare reimbursements require staff to work extra hard to make sure such services can be run! This is something that other community transport providers running these vital community buses in large rural areas will recognise.
This hard work is worthwhile, though, to ensure that the people who rely on these services can get where they need to be. “Green Dragon Bus primarily supports older people and those with disabilities who don’t have any other public transport options and for whom the community bus service is an invaluable lifeline,“ said Caroline Wilson, Manager.
These are just a couple of examples of community transport operators working hard to provide community bus services on section 22 permits. The work of community transport in ensuring that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, can catch the bus is so important; without them, so many would be unable to access the public transport they need.
If you’re a community transport operator who runs these sorts of services then please do get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org, we’d love to share your story.