April 4, 2012
Spotlight falls on community transport
The vital contribution of Scotland’s community transport providers featured prominently in the Scottish Parliament last week. A member’s debate on Thursday highlighted the lifeline services that more than 100,000 people take advantage of each year. At the heart of these services are the 2,500 volunteers and the estimated 280,000 hours they dedicate each year to keep these projects ticking over. With mainstream commercial bus services in steady decline, can the community providers fill the gaps that are starting to appear?
Volunteers bring almost £2 million of added value to the transport mix in Scotland, according to a new State of the Sector report on community transport in Scotland compiled by the Community Transport Association. Over 100,000 people and 4000 voluntary groups across Scotland use community transport to access services and all told the sector’s £10 million income provides 3.5 million passenger journeys annually to mainly elderly and disabled people who cannot use mainstream transport services.
“For the first time we have been able to identify the scale of transport provision by community groups, social enterprises and charities around the country” said John MacDonald, Director for Scotland at the Community Transport Association. “It has been particularly useful to quantify the extent to which volunteers contribute to enabling people to access services. From the groups we spoke to 2500 people give 280,000 hours of their free time each year to taking neighbours to the places they wish go. If each hour had to be paid for at the minimum wage rate then the bill would be close to £2 million.”
With mainstream bus services under pressure in many parts of Scotland, community transport is one way in which emerging gaps can be filled. However, the report shows that 70% of community transport operators say that their ability to plan services ahead is severely hampered as a result of short term commitment from key funders such as local authorities.
Amongst the report’s recommendations are calls for the bus concessionary fare scheme to include community transport services. Though many community transport users hold a concession card they cannot currently use it on most of these services.
For full report click here