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March 13, 2013

Community transport on Government radar

Transport, in whatever form it takes, is the essential lubricant for much of our daily lives.  Without effective transport, life becomes very difficult and for some, impossible – getting to the shops, keeping hospital appointments, maintaining a social life are all essential components of life, especially for the elderly. Increasingly, and particularly in remote rural areas, community transport operators present as the only option. Scottish Govt is beginning to recognise this vital role. An enquiry has just been launched.


How can community transport systems be improved? 11.03.2013

How people are travelling in their communities outside of commercial public transport systems is to be the focus for a Scottish Parliament Committee inquiry. Launched on 11th March 2013 by the Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee, the inquiry wants to look at whether community transport services are able to better meet the needs of the people they serve.

More than 80% of people who use community transport are elderly and/or people with disabilities and with an increasing elderly population,  the Committee knows how important community transport is to people’s lives.

Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee Convener Maureen Watt MSP said:

“We know that getting out and about to visit friends and family, go shopping and attending appointments is vital to people’s health and wellbeing and in contrast social isolation can be detrimental. Moving from A to B is often not a simple matter of making a journey, particularly if you are disabled or infirm and may not be easy even where bus routes exist. In some places, both rural and urban community transport does fill a gap where commercial routes are not available and in cases where people find it difficult to even get to a bus stop. 

“However, the Committee is aware of concerns that these services are not supported in the way they should be and we want to know why. We want to hear from people who rely on community transport services and the issues they face. Importantly, we also want to hear from those charities, volunteers and other bodies who provide these services and identify the main obstacles they have to overcome when trying to provide these vital services.”   

The Committee will shortly announce a series of fact finding visits to experience first-hand the challenges local communities face. Members will see community-based transport services in action and identify any best practice case studies where local challenges have been overcome and community transport provision works well and meets the needs of the local community. 

Maureen Watt MSP continued:

“Across Scotland, there are examples of fantastic services, but there are also communities isolated from transport networks and for whatever reason, local communities have been unable to set up the community transport services they so desperately need.  We want to hear from people living and working in communities and their views will be the focus our inquiry and make sure we can try to help improve the situation for those often in greatest need.”

The call for views will be open until 19 April, after which the Committee will begin to take oral evidence on issues raised during the call for views. The Committee is aware of the main issues which have been highlighted in previous studies, set out below, and is keen to move the debate on, identify the main priorities and make a real difference as a result of this inquiry. 

A lack of a strategic approach to community transport and the impact which a lack of transport has on people’s lives

The growing demand for community transport provision

A lack of a coordinated approach  with NHS bodies and community transport providers 

Eligibility criteria for non-emergency patient transport and the cost to NHS of taxi use.

Replacing community transport vehicles and funding planning.

Access to concessionary fares schemes.