Wales’ most isolated areas could benefit from improved transport provision with the support of the Community Transport Association (CTA) which is helping local community transport providers access funding for better transport.
One scheme that has so far benefited from the innovative project is the Hay on Wye Dial a Ride scheme which operates a ‘Bank Bus’ service.The unique scheme, which also received funding through the Big Lottery ‘Awards for All’ programme, supports people to travel from Hay to Brecon in order to access over the counter banking facilities and other services which are no longer available in their local community. The original Hay Dial a Ride scheme celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and helps 6,500 passengers make journeys in and around the local area every year
The CTA, the voice of Wales’ community transport sector, launched the Connecting Communities in Wales project with support from the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the Welsh Government and European Union, to fill gaps in public transport provision. The project, which launched in 2018, has so far supported community transport providers to bid for a total of £1.7m in funding to develop transport solutions, especially in rural areas.
The funding is helping providers, like Hay on Wye Dial a Ride, secure new vehicles including minibuses, mopeds and electric cars in order to ensure those who are unable to access public transport can get to leisure facilities, healthcare appointments, job opportunities and other support services.
Commenting on the scheme, Lesley Moore, Chief Executive of Hay Dial a Ride said: “The bank bus service will not only mean that our existing 300 service users can continue to access banking and other facilities but it will also enable us to target other people who could benefit and require such services. By enabling people to travel together, the ‘Bank Bus’ will continue to have a positive impact on individual wellbeing by reducing loneliness and isolation while also improving quality of life.”
Christine Boston, Wales Director for the Community Transport Association echoed Lesley’s comments and said: “We are really pleased to see the Connecting Communities in Wales project making a real difference to those who need it most. We regularly hear that community transport is a lifeline for so many people across Wales and by working with a wide range of organisations, we are able to increase capacity across the sector. In doing this, we’re working towards a future where everyone has access to transport that allows them to reach a wide range of essential services and facilities.”
“The ‘Bank Bus’ service delivered by Hay Dial a Ride is one of the smaller projects being taken forward but to those using the service, it is invaluable and will make a significant difference to the lives of all who use it.”
One Hay Dial a Ride service user credits the scheme with helping him maintain contact with friends on family, saying: “The Bank Bus is very important to me. It enables me to visit family and friends and to access local banks as we don’t have any banks in Hay anymore. I enjoy using the service.”
The Connecting Communities in Wales project will run until 2022 and during that time will work with community transport providers across Wales to develop new services and provide support for the sector to fill the gaps in current transport provision. The project will also facilitate training and capacity building for community transport operators, staff and volunteers to develop the sector to deliver a robust service for passengers into the future.
The Community Transport Association currently represents nearly 100 community transport organisations across Wales.