Susan van de Ven

Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon Learn more

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Post-16 student lifts to Meldreth Station and Community Transport

by Susan van de Ven on 22 August, 2017

Royston and District Community Transport have offered to provide lifts from Bassingbourn and Whaddon to Meldreth Station starting in September, to enable post-16 students to reach rail service to Cambridge.   As everyone knows all too well, there is now no public transport from Bassingbourn to Cambridge, nor to Meldreth Station, and the council is winding down not building up its transport subsidies, due to budget cuts.  So, the effort has been to try and figure something out with the tools available.

Community transport is run on very strict rules, is not-for-profit, and is not allowed to compete with commercial services.   This new service is being designed independently of the council.  At the time of writing this article, the Department for Transport has just issued new guidance on community transport licensing which could fundamentally affect the work of providers.

What has been arranged thus far is that lifts to Meldreth Station would cost each passenger about £3.55 per day (to cover costs) and seats would need to be booked and paid for in advance.  Even before it has started, demand seems to have outstripped capacity on the 16-seater minibus, so RDCT would look to deploy one of their smaller vehicles also. It was agreed that the Bassingbourn collection point should be no further than The Limes, so as to avoid High Street congestion, and probably also somewhere near Tower Close and also of course Kneesworth.  RDCT would need to hire paid drivers to ensure the everyday service that students would require, and new backroom office staff to manage the service.  At the time of writing, a new driver still has to be found.

Meanwhile, we are being asked to be aware of the new government guidance mentioned above. This comes at a time when councils are reducing subsidies to run basic bus services, and community transport providers are trying to step up to the plate to help people who are left stranded.  But by upgrading the service they provide, to meet need, community transport providers are entering new territory that the Department for Transport is now looking to regulate more stringently.  This is because the Department for Transport is being asked by other transport providers (taxi and bus companies) for a level playing field of regulation.  This is understandable of course, but it doesn’t necessarily sort out lack of transport.  At the time of writing, we think that the Meldreth Station post-16 service meets the guidance, so fingers crossed everything will soon be in place.

As you can see, the scraps of transport service we’ve got are not exactly easy to come by.   

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