A record year for community transport scheme

Uttlesford Community Travel is looking for more volunteers. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Uttlesford Community Travel is looking for more volunteers. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

A charity that helps the elderly and disabled to get out and about all over Uttlesford has carried more passengers on journeys over the past year than ever before – and it’s looking for more.

At its annual meeting in June, the trustees of Uttlesford Community Travel (UCT) reported that the demand for all of its services, which provide transport options for the district's elderly, disabled and rurally isolated, had seen dramatic increases.

The charity, whose head office is in Great Dunmow, supplies cars and minibuses to take residents wherever they want to go, including to medical appointments. This helps the people of Dunmow, Stansted, Thaxted, Saffron Walden and all their surrounding villages.

A fleet of six specially-adapted minibuses, all of which are wheelchair accessible, are used for its Book-A-Ride service, transporting passengers to just about anywhere they want to go - such as shopping, to the hairdressers, to visit friends, or perhaps to garden centres. All drivers are fully trained and checked through the disclosure and barring service.

Passengers pay a £10 annual joining fee and then for their journeys it costs £3.40 for the first two miles travelled and £1.02 for all subsequent miles.

Book-A-Ride also provides an opportunity for groups - such as WIs, schools and all sorts of other clubs - to join to provide transport for outings such as trips to the coast, places of interest, theatre trips, garden centres, lunches and afternoon teas, school trips and even regular group meetings.

Unlike the individual journeys, which can be taken only Monday to Friday, buses for groups are also available for hire in the evenings and at weekends.

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UCT's Hospital Car Service helps people who have difficulty in getting to hospital appointments by finding a driver who lives nearby, and who uses his own car, to take them. The drivers are all volunteers, so the passengers have to pay only the HMRC mileage rate of 45p per mile to get them there.

Funding is crucial to enable these services to operate, and treasurer Steve Biddlecombe told the annual meeting that the charity would not be able to operate without the financial support it receives from Essex County Council, Uttlesford District Council, the NHS West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group and Saffron Walden Town Council.

The charity's general manager, Malcolm Barrell, reported that individual Book-A-Ride journeys had increased by nine per cent, group journeys by 12 per cent and Hospital Car journeys by 19 per cent. He said UCT now had 740 individual members and 40 groups.

For more information on UCT, the services it provides and how to join, ring the charity on 01371 875787 or email info@uttlesfordcommunitytravel.org.