The need for the bus was identified in the Rainow Parish Plan which was completed some 7 years ago. One of the problems identified was the lack of a public bus service when the normal services stopped at around 6.30 pm; with virtually no service on Sunday.
A few of the original RPP team got together with other local people and set up a group which they called RPPIG (Rainow Parish Plan Implementation Group)
The opportunity came when CE announced the availability of grants aimed specifically at Community Transport for local community groups. At this time PC’s weren’t allowed to bid for this sort of grant. (This subsequently changed). The PPIG applied and in May 2013 were fortunate enough to be awarded £7020.00.
We decided we should carry out a pilot scheme using the Barnaby fortnight and chose the main w/e to launch the service. This went very well and we were able to try out a number of systems including – booking, ticketing, driver rosters etc. The one thing we found was that it was very expensive to hire a suitable vehicle and hence it was clear that we couldn’t run a sustainable scheme in this way. We looked at leasing, second hand purchase, etc. but none would have provided a sustainable scheme.
In about June 2013 we became aware that CE was considering off-loading a number of surplus buses. The vehicles had been used for Dial a Ride and similar services and had become surplus to requirements.
Following some delays whilst CE created a scheme for the fair allocation of these vehicles we duly submitted an application and following yet further delays we were fortunate to be allocated one of the vehicles at the end of March 2014.
This was a Mercedes Sprinter type 2.2 litre diesel, automatic drive, fully equipped as a public service vehicle with a custom fitted body and contained 10 seats with a position for two wheel chairs and has a wheel chair lift. We thought at first that it had 138,000 miles on the clock but this turned out to be kilometres, a great bonus!
We held a public meeting at the Rainow Institute in April where we presented the scheme and called for volunteers. Although there was a degree of enthusiasm there weren’t enough volunteers to proceed with a viable scheme, so over the next few months we concentrated hard on recruitment of both drivers and administrators. This culminated in an open day in the grounds of the Robin Hood pub and taking the bus to the Village Fete in July where we finally gathered the volunteers we needed.
We had issued publications and written articles published in the Raven, put the volunteer drivers through the MiDAS training scheme and by September we had enough volunteers and organisation in place to arrange a start of the service.
We had also increased the seating capacity from 10 to 15 by fitting extra seats which we bought with one of the team driving the bus all the way up to Halifax to collect them. These seats were of the same type already fitted to the bus and so were fairly easy to fit and therefore demountable when we need to be able to take a wheel chair.
Something we have had to be very conscious of is that we want the scheme to be sustainable and our operating permit and grant conditions stipulate that it is a “not for profit” scheme. Nevertheless we have to charge for the use of the bus; to cover both the running costs and allow for a replacement into the future. This at the same time making sure it is both affordable for the community and competitive with other forms of transport
The service began on October 17th 2014 and has been running successfully ever since with growing enthusiasm from the community.
We had decided that initially we would run the service on a Friday and Saturday evening, into and out of Macclesfield with a stop at Mount Pleasant and every Treacle Market Sunday. Three runs each way and with a nominal fare of £3 return and £2 single.
We are currently looking at the expansion of the scheme to carry community groups and possibly running excursions to popular sites.
We hope to have this facility in place early in the New Year.