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GRANTS are on offer to help isolated communities set up their own local transport scheme.

The funding is available for rural areas where there is difficulty accessing public transport and grants of £5,000 are available through Dorset County Council for people who want to set up their own schemes, or to help existing ones.

The Community Transport Grant will fund costs associated with starting up and operating a scheme. These include vehicle purchase costs, IT software that supports effective operation, marketing of schemes and training of staff or volunteers. 

The grant is a match funding grant, and applicants will need to cover costs of 50 per cent from other sources.

One scheme which has seen much success in the past year is in the village of Thorncombe.

Residents David and Mary Marsh organise fundraising events throughout the year to keep the twice weekly service to Chard and Axminster running.

David said: “Following the withdrawal of the subsidy from weekly rural bus services in Dorset last April, we had to look at alternative ways of supporting these vital services.

“Aside from essential grocery shopping, people are also able to get to optician and doctors’ appointments etc. or meet up with family members and friends and connect with inter-urban bus services and trains.

“We have a mini-bus going to Chard and Axminster every Thursday, which are both very popular with local residents who pay £3 for the return trip.

“In order to be as cost effective as possible, Dorset Community Transport run the Thursday bus services to Chard and Axminster as one bus.”

He added: “Without these community buses, elderly people, and people who don’t drive would find themselves very isolated with very limited services in the village.

“The buses are very popular with local residents. We are grateful to the Dorset Community Transport, who runs these services and always do their best to accommodate people’s individual needs and mobility issues.”

Thorncombe is also served by a (dial-a-bus) Plus Bus service, going to Bridport every Wednesday. This is a different scheme which needs to be booked in advance and requires passengers to be registered. It can include door to door service, with a £5.00 flat fare for all who use it. 

Cllr Peter Finney, cabinet member for environment, said: “We are committed to providing transport that meets the needs of many of our most vulnerable and isolated citizens.

“The community transport sector is highly valued by those who are unable to access conventional public transport services, not just because it gets them from A to B but also because of the social benefits it provides.

“We want to support the voluntary sectors and individuals to deliver independent, sustainable services for the residents of Dorset.” 

For more details about the grants visit www.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/article/424073/Community-Transport-Grant