Demand for dial-a-bus service in north Norfolk at record high

North Norfolk Community Transport Chief Executive Matt Townsend with some of the vehicles that are u

North Norfolk Community Transport Chief Executive Matt Townsend with some of the vehicles that are used to provide community transport across North Norfolk after increased demand for the service.Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

A dial-a-bus service which was threatened with closure due to a lack of passengers just six months ago has revealed it is now so popular it needs more volunteers to keep up with demand.

North Norfolk Community Transport confirmed a total of 4,780 single trips were made between July and December 2015, compared to 4,050 the previous year - an 18pc increase from the same period the previous year.

The minibus service picks up people who have no access to other forms of transport – including pensioners, those with impaired mobility, young people and the rurally isolated – from home and takes them to their destinations before dropping them back again afterwards.

About 400 passengers a month have been using it recently, enabling them to go shopping, attend social events and visit family and friends, as well as day's out to the seaside. To use the dial-a-ride service users must become a member of North Norfolk Community Transport. The charity currently has over 800 members.

Matt Townsend, chief executive of North Norfolk Community Transport, said: 'Up until the middle of last year the number of passengers using the service had been declining for the past couple of years. We were starting to wonder if there was still a need for the service.

'We already knew demand for the service between July and September had increased last year and the latest figures show that trend has continued until the end of the year. We have seen quite a remarkable turnaround in the demand for this service and all signs indicate this will remain the case in 2016.

'Many local people rely on this service to avoid isolation and to carry out routine tasks many of us take for granted. Our staff and volunteers continue to do a fantastic job providing a much needed service to the local community.'

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The dial-a-ride service is operated from bases in North Walsham and Holt, although Mr Townsend confirmed that the transport partnership has found a new home in North Walsham which paves the way for a new development by pub giants JD Wetherspoon who want to buy and convert their current offices on New Road.

Mr Townsend said: 'Many people who use the service will go on the same bus every week because they are friends with the same people. In north Norfolk people can be quite isolated and they enjoy the atmosphere of going on a friendy bus with friendly driver and group of friendly passengers. It's as much about the journey as the destination.'

But he added: 'We always need more drivers and have roles for those who can't drive, in the office or as volunteer passenger assistants, so if anyone wants to volunteer we will find something.'

To become a member of North Norfolk Community Transport or to access the dial-a-ride service call 01692 500840. All services are offered subject to availability on a first come first served basis.

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