New hope for community transport

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Communities could pull in funding and take responsibility for their own transport – according to a new plan up for discussion this week.

The idea will be presented to public transport chiefs on Thursday as part of the Zetland Transport Partnership meeting.

SIC transport planning manager Michael Craigie, said community transport was an opportunity of “addressing the gaps” in transport provision in the isles.

Community transport can range from bicycles to a community ferry, he said.

Mr Craigie added communities could obtain funding unavailable to the local authority, and the scheme could help with matters like access to childcare and transport to luncheon clubs.

Volunteers would be needed, but community transport could also be a source of “quality jobs”, said Mr Craigie.

“It’s mainly about communities identifying what their own particular needs are, and then what we would like to do is provide advice, technical skills and things to support them in developing their own community and transport organisation.”

Recently, Mr Craigie said the Scottish government had set aside £1 million to fund new vehicles for community transport organisations.

But compared to other areas, Shetland did not have the same coverage of community groups eligible.

“Public transport can only go so far in terms of meeting all the transport needs,” he said.

“It is never intended to get into the more specialist and unique aspects of transport in individual areas.”

As part of the debate, a report by SIC policy manager Emma Perring will presented to the meeting.

In it she states community transport across Shetland has been “patchy” and “underdeveloped”.

“There is currently a relatively poor understanding of what community transport is, how it can be achieved, and its value to communities,” she says.

“Pressures on the public sector and on public sector budgets, coupled with increased expectations and needs for transport accessibility means that it is a crucial time to capitalise on the potential which can be provided by community transport.”

The vision by 2019, Ms Perring says, is for community transport to “play a full and sustainable part in Shetland’s mixed transport economy”.

Mr Craigie said moves towards community transport was not a way of saving money, rather a way of providing transport for the community and supporting communities, which are able to access funding the council could not.

“The aim is to get a better mix of services in Shetland beyond just the public sector and the private sector.”

The aim is to set up a group of officials on the back of the meeting to provide a range of advice from business to legal guidance – to help with the community transport scheme.

Narene Fullerton is secretary of the community-run Burra and Trondra Minibus Association.

She said the group has one minibus which caters for young and old and is also used outwith the two areas.

A bus has been operating for more than 20 years she said, and had been used for the Glusstonberry festival as well as for groups in Scalloway such as Rainbows and Brownies.

She said community transport was a good idea, particularly in the current financial climate and as everything was getting expensive folk were going to have to consider it.

She also welcomed advice on how to get funding as the association is looking for another bus in future.

About Adam Guest

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as a senior news reporter at The Barnsley Chronicle and as a freelance reporter for The Doncaster Free Press. Alongside news reporting I specialise in music and sports journalism. Pork pie lover.

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