Community transport under threat

THE enormously popular Woking Community Transport service is in danger of having to drastically reduce some of its services by a possible change in the interpretation of the law.

WCT runs more than 12,000 journeys a month, which includes the Dial-a-Ride service, for around 2,600 residents of the borough. Known mostly for the distinctive yellow or silver Bustler vehicles, it is a not-for-profit organisation set up in 1991 that provides door-to-door transport for people who experience pain or discomfort when travelling on mainstream public transport due to age or disability. The majority of WCT’s minibuses are fully accessible, with either a passenger lift or ramps leading to wide doors and seats that can be removed to accommodate wheelchairs.

Woking MP Jonathan Lord, second left, with one of the Bustler minibuses. He and Cllr John Kingsbury, second right, were given a presentation on the Woking Community Transport service by chief executive Guy Padfield-Wilkins, far left, and general manager Stephen Morris
Picture by Tony Charters

Community transport, as well as schools, churches and other not-for-profit organisations are able to run minibuses without a full public service vehicle (PSV) operator’s licence through permits issued under the Transport Act 1985.

However, under pressure from commercial bus operators, the Department for Transport is considering scrapping the permits. The House of Commons Transport Select Committee (TSC) published a report in December after taking written submissions from interested parties and a full DfT consultation on possible changes is expected to start by the end of this month.

The WCT believes that if the permits are scrapped and it is forced to obtain a PSV operators licence, many of its drivers would leave because they would have to undertake further training, including obtaining a full D1 driving licence. WCT already provides all its drivers with Minibus Driver Awareness Scheme training (MiDAS), first aid training, and completes full enhanced DBS checks on all staff.  All vehicles are maintained to the highest standards and undergo safety inspections every ten weeks.

Moving to an OSV operator’s licence would not only restrict which services WCT could run, but would also push up the running costs across the board and put pressure on the funding it gets, mostly from Woking Borough Council.

See 1st February 2018 issue for the full report. 

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