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Local transport services are helping keep Co-op members’ communities connected, but two thirds of members think that they don’t fully meet their needs.

Members have been joining in to share their experience of local transport services, as we in the Co-op Foundation (the Co-op’s own charity) set out to explore whether our investment could help community-run transport services do more to keep people moving.

The Foundation helps disadvantaged communities to overcome their challenges by working together to make things better. We’ve been working with Co-op members to explore opportunities to help communities sustainably improve the places, spaces and services they care about, from parks to community centres and housing.

Here’s what we heard in our latest survey, looking at transport:

  • Members are using public transport to access shops, social events, leisure activities and work
  • A third of members feel that their local transport meets their needs well – they told us about friendly drivers and regular, affordable services
  • However, two in three say that their public transport services do not meet their needs, or only just do so
  • There’s a chasm between the job transport is doing in large cities, which tend to be  well served, and smaller towns and rural areas where it’s much harder to get around
  • Members recognise that poor public transport leads to more cars on the roads and increased pollution
  • Some shared serious concerns about cuts that have seen transport services reduce in recent years, and many talked about services that don’t run at the times they need them
  • Those who don’t use public transport themselves because the services are inadequate, are concerned for their older, unemployed or disabled neighbours who are more reliant on it
  • Accessibility was highlighted as a problem on both bus and train services
  • There is a lack of integration in services, people are unable to save by getting weekly tickets because different bus companies do not accept the same tickets

Some members told us about local community schemes that fill gaps in provision, such as volunteer drivers taking people to hospital appointments, but this is not always practical in rural areas with fewer volunteers available.

Next steps for the Foundation

Who knows what the future will bring for transport services, as ministers contemplate ‘Uber-style’ rides replacing buses, while Uber itself may start to face new challengers from the co-operative movement.

What’s clear from our survey is how important good, affordable local transport is, and how a lack of it can hinder access to work and social activities. Members have generally seen services reduce and prices rise. Although community initiatives can address this to an extent, they struggle to fill such large gaps.

In our initial scoping of the community transport sector, we haven’t so far identified groups who are ready to take on the level of investment that would be needed to genuinely and sustainably transform local transport.

We’re not going to give up though – we want to help communities find new ways to keep people and places connected. In 2018 we will continue to explore the challenges and opportunities for growing community transport, and how the Foundation can work with other partners to support this sector.

If you’d like to join in click here to see a full list of the opportunities available now

Jim Cooke,
Head of Co-op Foundation

Join the conversation! 10 Comments

  1. […] Connecting with Co-op Members on transport […]

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  2. As the Transport Coordinator for a volunteer charity rural Scotland . We take elderly and the infirm to and from the local co op and other shops. These people can’t or wont use the local bus service. It is easier for them to phone one number have someone organise a driver who is willing to pick them up and take them home putting their shopping into their house for them, They then pay a small charge for this. They would rather do this than wait on the bus (which is cheaper) in the cold and trail shopping back to their house. They also have the knowledge that there is someone on the end of the phone if they need anything.

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  3. I live in Torquay, where there have been cuts to community buses serving Babbacombe,nearest Co-op St Marychurch.This has left many elderly and non-car driving residents stranded up a very steep hill.In spite of appeals to and from the local MP nothing definite has happened yet to restore the service. Many local villages just outside Torquay,such as Maidencombe, and Marldon, have few services, which finish in the afternoon; even in small towns such as Ashburton and Buckfastleigh there are no services at all in the evenings. Even the main bus route from Torquay to Exeter provides fewer buses than last year,and one cannot get back from Exeter in the evening without using train and bus.There is no direct bus. The constant drain on bus services makes many older people without cars nervous of what the future holds. The government does not fully recompense the bus companies for the Senior Citizens bus pass, and we who use it would rather pay something towards it than lose more buses. Central government appears to be blind and deaf towards what happens on the ground. I wonder how often Chris Grayling uses public transport? as the Transport Minister he should be doing something about this situation, which is otherwise going to get worse.

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  4. Steve we already have a similar scheme where I live in rural Aberdeenshire ~ a dial a bus which is wonderful for daytimes.
    As long as I dont want to go out at night or weekends!
    I welcome the Coop Foundation looking at this with fresh viewpoints. It could be good for our members, good for our communities and good for our businesses – what is there to lose?
    My biggest problem is those last few miles ( beyond the bus and train routes) in journeys to remote areas. I would love to see more affordable and flexible car club/ electric bike hire at railway stations and support for lift sharing schemes.

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  5. I do think that in many communities these days there is an opportunity and a need for a Co-operative to run and operate a Mini Cab/Uber type transport Service. Owned and operated by and for the benefit of the members
    Electric vehicles would be ideal for certain urban and market town locations and help improve the environment overall.

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  6. Is there also a link between local transport availability and loneliness? I would love to see small local electric vehicles doing circuits around communities – including stopping at Co-op stores to extend reach?! Feel sure this would make an important and positive contribution to the physical and mental wellbeing of an ageing population? There could be a health economics cost benefit argument for such services with costs perhaps shared between NHS, Social Care, Local Authority, charities and local business.

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  7. Nothing new in this survey then. This is all stuff we already know, in fact I’ve not been on a bus for 5 years and I can tell you all the above. Its all well publicised. Why should “groups” and the Co-op have to reform local transport? Surely this is the governments job?

    Here is a radical idea where local villages are poorly served (based on similar to our own logistics system). Person wants to get a bus to town tomorrow. Person books an arrival time online (or phones up). Thousands of people in villages around the country do same to their local towns. System crunches all the appointments after, say, 4pm, and does a “best fit” to get everybody to town on time in the most economical way possible. If exact times are not possible it gives them a time prior to their request so they aren’t late. Remove scheduled bus services from these villages and just use these booked services. Have a display at each rural bus stop (and online service) showing the next services due (so anybody can hop on the next bus even if they haven’t booked, though not guaranteed a seat). This way nobody can complain their village isn’t served by public transport. You could even use minibuses where a proper bus would be uneconomical.

    Now, there’s an idea.

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    • Certainly an interesting idea, Steve. I wonder if local taxi firms would be equipped to trial this system. I personally know of some that do already. ^Jordan

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