Keeping local busses on the move

2nd May 2018
Community Transport Organisations (CTOs) do an immensely valuable job of ensuring isolated communities and individuals, who are often elderly and vulnerable, are able to get to vital local services when other forms of transport are not available. 
Not-for-profit community transport groups, such as the Ring and Ride and Volunteer Car service, are able to carry passengers without first holding the operator’s licence that would otherwise be required. They are also relieved of meeting onerous road safety requirements which would rightly be expected of a commercial operator.  
However, there has been concern that local CTOs may be prevented from carrying out their vital work due to a legal challenge arising from the effect of EU regulations; as a result the Department for Transport has been forced to make adjustments to the permit system in order to comply with competition rules. 
I have heard, and recognise, the anxiety and unease our local CTOs have about these changes and have raised them with the Minister for Transport directly. 
I have received strong assurances that many local community transport operators should not be affected by the Department’s consultation on the permit system. Indeed, he believes that it is likely to affect larger operators in what may in effect be commercial operations. 
Through the application of exemptions for CTOs, the Government wants to protect as many community transport services as possible and the Minister has told me that there is no appetite to change the current permits system, which is generally working well.  
Looking forward, the Department is consulting on detailed changes to guidance, so that operators and the general public have the opportunity to air concerns and share ideas. I encourage my constituents to make their views heard online ( or contact me directly for those without internet access. 
I know Ministers are keen to ensure the continued success of the non-commercial community transport sector. Indeed, the Government has a proud record in supporting their vital services, including through launching the £25 million Community Minibus Fund (CMF) in 2014 where over 400 vehicles have already been delivered to local charity and community groups.
CTOs are local charities manned by public-spirited volunteers whose extraordinary services help its passengers fully integrate with the community thus enhancing their quality of life. The maintenance of their services is imperative and I will be vigilant to ensure there will be no prejudice to the extremely valuable work the organisations do for the community.