£425,000 of grants awarded to improve community transport in Oxfordshire

Cllr Andrew Gant

Twelve organisations are to share nearly £425,000 to help improve community transport in Oxfordshire.

Oxfordshire County Council is awarding the grants, ranging from £700 to £135,000, to fund new vehicles, expand schemes, provide new services, offer administrative support and carry out surveys of potential passengers.

Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport Management, pictured, said: “Most of us take it for granted that we will be able to get to the places we need to. However, when people can’t drive or access public transport, they can be stranded.

“That’s why Oxfordshire’s active and diverse community transport sector is such a lifeline to so many people. From small volunteer car schemes to larger minibus schemes offering timetabled services, we are incredibly grateful to all those who work so hard to keep our residents mobile.

“We know these grants will make a big difference to all these organisations and help them to continue the fantastic work they are doing.”

Daybreak Oxford driver Derek Adams, left, with former bus project coordinator Toby Coules. Picture courtesy of Daybreak Oxford

The recipients are West Oxfordshire Community Transport; Uffington, Baulking and Woolstone (UBW) Minibus; The Villager Community Bus; CAWNAC (Oxfordshire) Volunteer Driver Service; Daybreak Oxford; Readibus; Shrivenham/Bourton/Watchfield/Longcot Parish Councils; Wallingford Town Council; Wantage & District Community Transport Community Interest Company (CIC); Chinnor Village Centre; First & Last Mile CIC; Watlington Parish Council.

Daybreak Oxford, pictured above, has been awarded £135,000 to expand the scheme it has been running for 15 months, transporting people with dementia to and from day centres and taking the older population on shopping trips.

Lee Gray, Chief Executive of Daybreak Oxford, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to receive this funding. It means we can increase the number of days we can operate, the number of centres we can visit, and double the number of people we can serve. We take them door-to-door and it is a real lifeline for so many people.

“We recently bought our second minibus, thanks to a donation from the MacFarlane Family Foundation, and the council’s grant will take care of everything else, from permits to safety inspections, as well as drivers and coordinators to make it sustainable.”

First & Last Mile CIC volunteer Les Swarbrick at the wheel of one of their minibuses. Picture courtesy of First & Last Mile CIC

West Oxfordshire’s First & Last Mile, pictured right, has been awarded £40,000 to expand its services and provide administrative support to cope with the additional workload.

It has three vehicles and currently carries about 80 passengers a day, mostly schoolchildren, and serves villages between Long Hanborough and Standlake. However, it is in the process of improving its timetable from next month to include a shopper service from South Leigh into Witney for villagers.

Andy Swarbrick, First & Last Mile CIC Director, said: “We are very pleased to have been awarded a community transport grant. We feel it is in recognition of the widely applauded service we run in one of the most challenging rural areas of Oxfordshire since our inception in January 2022.

“The award will be used to establish not only a shoppers’ service but also put the whole business on a more professional footing. That said, a critical aspect of our philosophy is to engage locally, both in terms of volunteers and the support of the wider community.”

Community transport is part of the voluntary sector and plays a key role in filling gaps in service where public transport is not available. It helps provide safe, accessible, cost-effective, flexible transport run by the community for the community in rural and urban areas.

Community transport can include car clubs, community minibuses, dial-a-ride, lift shares, taxi shares and voluntary car schemes.

Some groups offer services just for their members, while others are open to the public. It can take disabled people to work, children to school, sick people to healthcare and older people to the shops. It runs local bus routes and provides transport for a wide range of clubs and other groups.

The council supports the development of not for profit community transport groups and services.

Small start-up grants to help groups in their development are available, while the council can also help with the cost of training volunteers as minibus and passenger assistants.

More information is available on Oxfordshire County Council’s website.