Very quietly a rather worrying and dark revolution has been taking place that operates a very real and direct risk to those in society who find themselves arguably the most isolated and lonely in rural communities. For quite a few years now the excellent work conducted by the Community Transport organisations across the length and breadth of the UK have been busy getting on with the business of getting people from A To B where conventional bus services along with the hugely depleted subsidised bus services have not been able to operate due to austerity cuts.
These life changing services operate under license in many cases and are staffed by volunteers who do not have a PCV license nor indeed have they needed to own one. Very often they are in the more remote parts of the UK. In locations where very often due to austerity and Local Authority cuts essential social services have already been cut, meaning that quite literally the only life line has been the Community Transport mini bus. But, not for much longer it would seem, in a frankly bizarre and unexplainable way the DFT has decided to change the rules, that will mean that these services will have to be operated as commercial bus services. This will require these CT ‘s to obtain an Operators license and prove that they comply with the rules governing commercial operators legislation.
It makes no sense and seems like a knee jerk reaction that comes across to me as ill founded, confusing, and just a wrong piece of legislation that will not only destroy this most vital of resources that specifically helps those who need it most. The utter change in the CT model will result in the wide spread destruction of this noble and decent provision of social services as these organisations will not only be unable to meet the commercial criteria needed to start up in the first place. But the army of volunteers who presently drive for them will have to take a PCV test at their own expense as well as the CPC again at their expense, which they just not will do. The volunteer lobby are dependant on predominantly retired, part time individuals who often work at minimum wage and do the job because they want too and they enjoy it. If the DFT seriously think that these people are really going to fork out several thousand pounds of their own money then they are not living in the real world. I beg the simple question, if it was you, would you do it.?
So, luckily there are good and decent people who have been very alarmed and vocal about this, including the members of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, especially members of the Bus and Coach Forum and the Safety and Inclusion Forum. Great credit is due to the members who have taken it upon themselves to develop an excellent formal response to the DFT. My fervent hope is that these worthy protestations are taken on board and acted upon.