DORSET County Council is offering grants of up to £5,000 to support communities wanting to set up their own local transport scheme, with grants also available to existing schemes.
The Community Transport Grant will fund costs associated with starting up and operating a scheme. These include vehicle purchase costs, IT software that supports effective operation, marketing of schemes and training of staff or volunteers.
The grant is a match funding grant and applicants will need to cover costs of 50 per cent from other sources.
Since 2016, residents of Thorncombe in West Dorset have set up two rural community bus services as a lifeline, allowing them to get to the towns of Axminster and Chard.
David Marsh and his wife Mary, who live in the village, keep the service going by organising fundraising events throughout the year with the help and support of local people in the village.
Mr Marsh said: “Following the withdrawal of the subsidy from weekly rural bus services in Dorset last April, we had to look at alternative ways of supporting these vital services.
“Aside from essential grocery shopping, people are also able to get to optician and doctors’ appointments or meet up with family members and friends and connect with inter-urban bus services and trains.
“We have a mini-bus going to Chard and Axminster every Thursday, which are both very popular with local residents who pay £3 for the return trip.
“In order to be cost effective as possible, Dorset Community Transport run the Thursday bus services to Chard and Axminster as one bus.
“Without these community buses, elderly people and people who don’t drive would find themselves very isolated with very limited services in the village.
“The buses are very popular with local residents. We are grateful to Dorset Community Transport, who runs these services and always do their best to accommodate people’s individual needs and mobility issues.”
As a local councillor, Mr Marsh organises the community transport fund through the Thorncombe Parish Council, and the money raised will be match-funded by Dorset County Council.
The vital funds to keep the service going are raised by having breakfast clubs, quiz nights, coffee mornings, craft fairs and raffles.
Cllr Peter Finney, Dorset County Council’s cabinet member for environment, said: “We are committed to providing transport that meets the needs of many of our most vulnerable and isolated citizens.
“The community transport sector is highly valued by those who are unable to access conventional public transport services, not just because it gets them from A to B, but also because of the social benefits it provides.
“We want to support the voluntary sectors and individuals to deliver independent, sustainable services for the residents of Dorset.”
For more information, visit Community Transport Scheme