Halesworth Hoppa needs support

A VOLUNTEER-RUN bus service is desperately seeking new sponsorship to keep it on the road.

Halesworth Area Community Transport has been covering the Holton to Halesworth route since the early 1990s.

The group is run by volunteers but new sponsorship is urgently needed as their current deal ends in June.

The 511 service was introduced as a lifeline for those living in Holton who needed to get to Halesworth for shopping, library, banking, social and medical reasons.

It was initially supported financially by Suffolk County Council, because the group was running a registered bus route, but this was cut in 2008.

Halesworth business Woolnoughs Funeral Services stepped in to sponsor the bus, but that contract ends in June.

Publicity officer and driver David Cask said: “We need money to continue to run it. The trouble is that some people aren’t really taking in what will happen.

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“If it takes five sponsors, they can all advertise on the side of the bus or they can just give their support.”

The service, which is known as the Halesworth Hoppa, runs on Mondays, Tuesday, Wednesdays and Fridays.

All of the drivers are retired volunteers and over the last three years they have contributed 12,500 hours of their time to help carry more than 28,000 passengers.

The white 15-seat community bus is available to all, with drivers helping passengers on and off the bus when they are hailed. A short diversion off route can also be given to deliver people to their door, if mobility impaired.

Fares are free for bus pass holders and children under five, 50p for those aged five to 16, and �1.30 for adults aged 17 and over. Mr Cask said: “We operate a timetable and people know when we arrive and when we leave – that is what people like.”

The group is non-profit making which means that all the money raised from fares and donations has been used to cover running costs and further invest in the service.

As a result they have been able to buy two minibuses, which help them to cover the 511 route, supply social transport for the Halesworth Day Centre twice a week and offer private hire. They also have a Handybus service that provides links between Halesworth, Walpole, Sibton, and Peasenhall on Mondays and Wednesdays.

To offer help with sponsorship, funding or donations contact office@hactbus.co.uk or telephone 01986 875900 for a prospectus.

The group held a business and social meeting at The Pavilion, in Walpole, last Thursday when chairman John Levy presented driver David Dawson with an engraved goblet to mark his retirement after more than 20 years of service.

Mr Dawson, who was on the management committee, took on the role of training and assessing new drivers. Mr Levy wished him all the best for the future.