Volunteer service wins rural transport contract

BACT Community Transport were awarded £1,000 from the community partnership small grants scheme.

BACT Community Transport were awarded £1,000 from the community partnership small grants scheme. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press

A Beccles and Bungay volunteer service will now be responsible for rural transport in all of Waveney.

Bact community transport has won a five-year contract from Suffolk County Council, which will start in June.

It will continue to provide its transport services to vulnerable and elderly passengers, but also expand into new services and improve the current system.

Bact manager Debbie Blowers said: “At the moment it’s so complicated, people don’t always know who to phone and what services are available.

“From June there will be one number for community transport in Waveney, people will be able to call us and we will be able to find the most appropriate journey.”

Mrs Blowers said overseeing the district as a whole would make the system more efficient, as journeys could be linked together.

In future, if one passenger is travelling from Lowestoft to Beccles while another passenger is going from Beccles to Lowestoft, these could be done by one driver.

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“What we’re going to try and do is work with the commercial operators to feed people onto their buses,” she said. “The idea is we will work together a lot more closely.”

Mrs Blowers said Bact also did a lot of research before putting in a bid for the contract, carrying out surveys of young people, existing passengers and parish and town councils.

One area where they identified a need for better rural transport was around helping people access employment from Bungay into Beccles.

Mrs Blowers added they would still continue to provide for their traditional types of passengers, often elderly and isolated people, but would also be looking at other problems with rural transport in the future including accessing local hospitals and health centres in Waveney.

All passengers and volunteers working under the new Waveney contract led by Bact will receive information over the coming months about how the services will run in the future and whom to contact for bookings. Bact is also subcontracting to Halesworth Volunteer Dentre to provide their existing community car service.

Leader of Suffolk County Council Colin Noble said: “I am really pleased with these new services. They have been designed to make things simpler for residents.

“We have been repeatedly told that the current system for using services is difficult to understand. In future there will simply be one phone number for residents to use to get the service they need in their community.”