Bus scheme provides vital service to vulnerable residents
PUBLISHED: 06:30 01 January 2016
Archant Norfolk © 2015
At a time of year when older people living on their own can feel particularly lonely, one transport scheme is going above and beyond to look after some of Waveney's most vulnerable residents.
Beccles and Bungay Area Community Transport (BACT) takes around 25,000 passengers a year to shopping centres, places of interest, theatres, garden centres, hospital and wherever else they need to be.
Run by volunteers, the service means elderly people without access to a car who cannot use public transport are not isolated.
It means people who would otherwise be confined to their own four walls can go to the supermarket with a BACT volunteer on hand to load their shopping into the minibus.
And when they step off the bus to go home, the volunteer even carries their shopping right up to the door - an accessible alternative for people who live further away from a bus stop than they are able to walk.
Fares cost just a few pounds, depending on distance travelled, making it affordable when a regular taxi would be too much of a stretch.
As regular passenger Pat Rogers, 82, put it: “It’s a life saver.
“I don’t know where I’d be without them,” she said. “I think it’s a marvellous service, the people that volunteer are so kind and helpful.
“You get to know people, you make friends. We’ve had some very happy times.
“When we first arrive at the supermarket many of us sit and have lunch together and this is so important.”
Some of BACT’s regular journeys drop off and pick up the same passengers week after week, taking them to Beccles centre and the supermarkets. They get to know each other and become their own micro-community.
Volunteer driver Tony Rainbird, said: “I think the bus is a very important place - it’s the social side. You’re getting them out of their homes and meeting people when they sometimes find it difficult to get out because of a lack of mobility, but the buses give them that opportunity.”
And while the bus may physically get people from A to B, with a bit of socialising thrown in, BACT volunteers are also well-placed to spot any problems as they develop.
“Seeing people week after week enables us to be caring and supportive,” said Mr Rainbird.
Regular passenger Doris Stubbs, 85, said: “The bus takes me to Beccles, to the James Paget, to All Hallows and we have a laugh. It’s a godsend.”