Totnes and Rural Community Transport
The aim of the charity is to provide accessible community transport for Totnes and its surrounding villages. We operate scheduled bus routes, serving locations with no other public transport, and regular travel club excursions to local places of interest. We aim to make our services friendly and accessible for as many people as possible, including residents and visitors, and especially passengers of limited mobility, the elderly, and anyone without access to their own vehicle.
The Totnes community bus was piloted in 1997 after a chance remark made by a visitor to the Totnes Information Centre. She was complaining that the main shopping street was very steep and was not easy to walk up, especially for the less able shopper. She asked whether anyone had thought of the possibility of having a small shuttle bus which took passengers to the top of the town.
A town councillor, who coincidentally brought school parties into town to utilise the historic environment, spoke to one of the local coach firms that she used and asked if they would be willing to pilot a service for a few weeks during the summer season. An agreement was reached and both the Town and District councils agreed to fund the project for one year. The experiment was a great success, the service carrying over 700 passengers between June and the end of September.
It was then decided that it would be useful to try to continue the summer service during the peak holiday period the following year. Again both local councils offered grant aid, but only on the proviso that the business community offered matched funding. Several volunteers personally visited all the shops and offices in the town centre and enough money was raised to hire another bus with a driver.
It soon became clear that a more permanent all-year-round service would be very useful indeed so in 2000 a community group was set up to try to take the service to another level. Grant aid was made available to hire a full-time co-ordinator to look at the practicalities such as route and timetable planning, fill in all the necessary forms and – most importantly – to raise sufficient capital to purchase a new bus to be owned by and run for the community. This proved to be a very successful exercise and in 2002 the group, with the help of various national bodies such as Help the Aged and the Countryside Agency, was able to buy a brand new bus.
The name of the co-ordinator was Bob Vaughan and to honour him for all the work that he has put into the project – working on, even when all the grant aid had run out – the new bus was named ‘Bob’. The bright yellow ‘Bob the Bus’ quickly became a much loved and valued feature of the Totnes street scene.
Since the group and the service have gone from strength to strength and is arguably one of the most successful community bus groups in the country. It now owns 3 buses, one of which continues to service the town and one which is hired out to town groups.
An addition to the ‘fleet’ was a bus purchased for the express purpose of carrying a group of students to a nearby school after their bus service was axed during cutbacks. “School Bob” as it was so named transported 16 students to Churston Grammar school for 18 months. The children loved the bus and a personal touch was added by the driver by decorating the bus on the children’s birthdays/Halloween/Easter and Christmas. This project proved successful by influencing a local bus firm to register a new service so that more children from Totnes had access to transport to the local grammar school. School Bob retired beginning of 2014 and was sold on to Seale Hayne.
In 2012 a new coordinator was recruited and developed the service further by accessing grant aid to introduce a new summer service to the outlining village of Stoke Gabriel. The service will initially run on a Tuesday throughout the summer months and incorporate calling at 4 campsites in the area. Grant aid of £34000 was raised towards buying a new bus from the Big Lottery and The Mitchell Trust.
Further funding was sourced from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund for promoting and marketing ‘Bob the Bus’ to raise his profile and potentially attract more passengers and meet more transport needs.
In Nov 2014 a rural CT operator ‘Harbourne Shuttle’ merged with Totnes Communiy bus and ‘Totnes and Rural Community Bus’ was born. The strengthened committee worked closely with the coordinator to design new routes combining both the town and rural areas. The new routes were launched in April 2015, comprising of 2 buses serving 9 rural areas, Totnes town centre, Follaton and Bridgetown.
In 2016 the charity received £160,000 funding from the governments community transport minibus fund. 2 low floor accessible Mercedes Sprinters were purchased. These buses have enabled the charity to reach more people within the community with transport needs.
The success of this service relies heavily on the commitment and reliability of the volunteer drivers.
There are currently 38 volunteer drivers who drive ‘Bob’ on a weekly/fortnightly/monthly basis or just fill in when needed.
The group is always looking for new volunteer drivers.
For further information contact Lyn
on 07800 745332.