Vital Devon community buses could face the axe
Posted on: 11 April 2018
Vital community bus schemes across Devon could have to close if the Government enforces European regulations, a senior county councillor has warned.
The Government is currently consulting on licencing for community transport after a commercial bus company challenged current UK guidance in the European courts.
As a result, community buses with more than nine seats would be subject to the same regulations as buses, minibuses and coaches run for profit.
And community transport drivers would have to have the same qualifications as professional drivers.
Up to now community transport, run for the benefit of local people, has effectively been exempt from full commercial licencing.
Devon County Council’s Cabinet member for community and public transport, Roger Croad, said: “This has all come about because of disputes between commercial bus companies and local community transport groups elsewhere in the UK.
“It means that the volunteers who run buses for the benefit of their local communities will either have to meet the same standards for their drivers and vehicles as your local bus or coach company or prove that the routes they run could not be served by a commercial company.
“We fear that many local organisations which signed up as charitable concerns will say they do not want to effectively become commercial operators which would mean they could lose out on running future local authority contracts.”
The Department for Transport is currently holding local consultations on the issue. Last week nearly 100 community representatives from across the South West met at County Hall in Exeter to discuss the threat.
The County Council currently grants around £250,000 to 14 community schemes which operate pre-booked transport such as ring and ride. But the community transport groups use that cash as a basis to qualify for more grants from other local councils and organisations.
There are around 239,000 passenger trips a year on community transport in Devon with 150 volunteers driving minibuses and 75 paid permit drivers.
Mr Croad said: “We will obviously work with these groups to help them comply with any new rules that come in.
“We also reiterate our promise to ensure that no community is completely cut off.
“But firstly what we must do is ensure that the Government is well aware of the potential consequences of this action and we have contacted our MPs to alert them.
“We must all make sure that the continued existence of these vital community services is not put at risk.”
These are the community transport schemes which Devon County Council currently helps to support:
Exeter Community Transport Association
Axe Valley Ring & Ride
Exmouth & District Community Transport Group
TRIP Community Transport Association (Honiton)
Tiverton & Crediton Community Transport Association
Go North Devon Ltd
Ilfracombe & District Community Transport Association (incl. Torridge Ring & Ride)
Ivybridge & District Community Transport Association (incl. West Dart Community Bus)
Totnes & Dartmouth Ring & Ride (operated by Newton Abbot Community Transport)
East Teignbridge (Dawlish) Community Transport Association
Newton Abbot Community Transport Association (incl. Totnes/Dartmouth Ring & Ride)
Holsworthy Rural Community Transport Association
Torridge Ring & Ride (operated by Ilfracombe Community Transport Association)
Okehampton & District Community Transport Group
Tavistock & District Local Transport Partnership (Ring & Ride)