Wales’ most isolated areas could benefit from improved transport provision with the support of the Community Transport Association (CTA) which is helping local community transport providers access funding for better transport.
One local scheme that has recently benefitted from the CTA’s innovative Connecting Communities in Wales project is Cerrig Friends – a new volunteer driver scheme which will support residents in the rural village of Cerrigydrudion. The small Conwy village, which has a population of 700 residents, has a primary school, GP surgery, shop and a network of social activities.
One major barrier for local residents is the lack of reliable and regular public transport. There is an infrequent bus service that operates three times a week however residents often resort to paying for taxis to make the expensive 36 mile round-trip to supermarkets in Ruthin and Denbigh. Cerrigydrudion “Cerrig Friends” was established by a small group of local residents who recognised the impact social isolation caused by limited transport options was having on people’s heath.
The scheme sees volunteers use their own cars to transport local residents to appointments, supermarkets and wellbeing activities in the area.
It’s not just older residents that benefit from the scheme, volunteers also take residents to and from parent groups and social activities that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible to them.
The CTA, the voice of Wales’ community transport sector, launched the Connecting Communities in Wales project with support from the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the Welsh Government and European Union, to fill gaps in public transport provision. The project, which launched in 2018, has so far supported community transport providers to bid for nearly £2m in total to develop transport solutions, especially in rural areas.
The funding is helping providers, like Cerrig Friends, ensure those who are unable to access public transport can get to leisure facilities, healthcare appointments, job opportunities and other support services.
Commenting on the scheme, Glyn Carter, volunteer driver of Cerrig Friends said:
“Due to the decline in public transport people in the village are becoming more isolated and are prevented or find it difficult to get reasonable connections for basic activities like shopping or going to a barbers/hairdresser. It’s also a great point of contact for those who might have limited personal interaction in their daily or weekly lives, by enabling people to travel together, the scheme has a positive impact on individual wellbeing by reducing loneliness and isolation, improving general quality of life and is good for the environment too.”
Christine Boston, Wales Director for the Community Transport Association said:
“I am amazed and inspired every day by what communities can do when supported to create their own solutions. It is fantastic to see yet another community transport scheme enjoying success and making sure people can live life to the full regardless of their circumstances.”
“This project also highlights the high level of good will that lies at the heart of our neighbourhoods and what can be achieved when this is harnessed. We hope that others will follow this example and consider what can be done in their own communities to remove barriers to transport so that everyone can live a full and active life”.
The Connecting Communities in Wales project will run until 2022 and during that time will work with community transport providers across Wales to develop new services and provide support for the sector to fill the gaps in current transport provision. The project will also facilitate training and capacity building for community transport operators, staff and volunteers to develop the sector to deliver a robust service for passengers into the future.
The Community Transport Association currently represents nearly 100 community transport organisations across Wales.