Transport service for elderly aims to improve rural links

VILLAGE CONNECTIONS: Darlington mayor Charles Johnson launches the Our Bus service, in Darlington last year

VILLAGE CONNECTIONS: Darlington mayor Charles Johnson launches the Our Bus service, in Darlington last year

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A PROJECT that aims to improve rural transport is calling on the people of Darlington to help improve services in isolated areas.

Tees Valley Transport Brokerage is a project managed by Tees Valley Rural Community Council (TVRCC) and has Big Lottery funding until 2016.

TVRCC has already launched a similar project in east Cleveland, which has provided more than 4,000 passenger journeys to a wide cross-section of the community in both rural and semi-urban areas.

Steve Metcalf, project officer for Tees Valley Transport Brokerage in Darlington, has written to residents appealing for help and volunteers.

He wrote: “Local authorities are facing financial cuts and our area is no different. One area that has seen significant cuts is public transport, particularly to and from rural areas.

“There has also been a significant loss of bus services in the evening and at weekends.

“For many elderly residents, or those with mobility difficulties, this is leading to social isolation, where they become stuck at home.

“It also presents difficulty getting out to go shopping, visit the GP, bank etc and makes it nigh on impossible to live active, inclusive lives.

“Everyday social activities are made impossible without adequate transport and this means residents in outlying areas are unable to enjoy many things which their more urban counterparts take for granted.”

Services provided by the east Cleveland project have been made possible by using space capacity – in other words, idle time – of locally owned, community minibuses.

Mr Metcalf added: “When the owners are not using their vehicles, we hire them out, with drivers to provide services.

“This not only provides much-needed transport, but also earns revenue for the vehicle’s owners.

“We train drivers to a nationally-recognised standard for minibuses, while private car volunteers use their vehicles to offer lifts, usually short local runs, and are then paid a mileage allowance.”

Having established a base in Darlington town centre, Mr Metcalf is appealing to Darlington residents – individuals or groups - to come forward.

He continued: “If your group owns or operates a mini bus, which regularly stands idle for periods of time and you would like to see how it can earn you revenue in those times, if you are looking for a volunteering opportunity which gets you out and about with people and is rewarding, or if you are aware of residents facing transport difficulties, then Tees Valley Transport Brokerage would like to hear from you.

“We need minibus driver volunteers and private care owners to build up services for Darlington and are always happy to hear from bus-owning organisations which may be able to offer up some vehicle time to contribute to a vibrant and much-needed community transport service.

“Many residents are unable to drive. For these people, transport, or the lack of it, is a major barrier to accessing services and being able to enjoy life to the full.”

Anyone able to help is encourage to get in touch with Mr Metcalf, at Tees Valley Transport Brokerage, Evolution, Church Row, Darlington DL1 5QD.

Call 01325-266888 or email smetcalf@teesvalleyrcc.org.uk

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