A pair of community transport groups have stepped in to save the Totnes and Dartmouth ring and ride service which has helped thousands of frail, elderly and disabled people since it was launched 23 years ago.
The door-to-door minibus scheme helps people in the towns and surrounding rural villages, who can’t use public transport services, to get about and to do essential shopping each week.
For the last year the service has been run by a commercial contractor as a stop-gap measure, since the Totnes-based community bus operation collapsed after running out of cash.
From this Easter, Newton Abbot Community Transport Association will take on the majority of the service, and Ivybridge and District Community Transport Association will run services for passengers in the South Brent and Dartington areas.
Karen Rose, community transport adviser for Devon County Council, said: “This news will be a great relief to the regular passengers of the ring and ride service.
This is such an essential service particularly for people with mobility difficulties or those who live remotely from bus routes.
“The two community transport operators taking on the running of the service have many years of experience running ring and ride in their local areas and I am sure they will do well with this extension to their schemes.”
The future of the ring and ride service covering the Totnes and Dartmouth areas had been uncertain after the community group which launched the service 23 years ago failed to raise enough money to keep the operation on the road.
The ring and ride service is supported with grants from both Devon County Council and South Hams District Council and some of the parish councils served by the scheme.
The county said that current timetables will be revised, but the two groups are jointly aiming to serve all of the communities previously covered by the service.
And it also explained that the two community groups and Devon County Council have reached a funding agreement for 12 months, and the scheme will be reviewed after six months to ensure that the services are running to plan.
Kay Yendall, manager of Newton Abbot Community Transport Association, said: “Following the closure of Totnes and Dartmouth Ring and Ride last year we handled phone calls about the service, so some of the passengers have already chatted with us. Our wheelchair friendly vehicles and experienced drivers will be providing the transport and we encourage passengers to contact us – we’ll be happy to help.”
Chairman of Ivybridge and District Community Transport Association Barbara Davies said: “We are delighted to extend our existing ring and ride operation to include the parishes of South Brent and Dartington.
“We know how much the ring and ride services are valued by our own passengers and the demise of Totnes and Dartmouth Ring and Ride must have been a worry to those who relied upon it.
“IDCTA is local charity which exists to serve parishes around Ivybridge and we are pleased to step in and help our neighbouring parishes.
“For further information on our full range of services and timetables, see www.ringandride.net.”
Letters are being sent to current ring and ride passengers to let them know about the new arrangements.
Passengers requiring transport will need to telephone to register with the new providers.
To make an inquiry or book a journey, they can call 01626 335775 or, if they live in South Brent or Dartington, they can call 01752 690444.