This short briefing provides an overview of community transport services. Note: funding for and the provision of such services is devolved within the UK.
What is community transport?
“Community transport enables people to live independently, participate in their community and to access education, employment, health and other services. It uses and adapts conventional vehicles to do exceptional things – always for a social purpose and community benefit, but never for a profit”. [Community Transport Association]
- Voluntary car schemes, community bus services, hospital transport: provide community-based care and support for people in the local community who do not have access to affordable transport. They combat isolation by helping people get to work, access public services and transport, go to the shops and visit friends.
- School transport: local authorities have a duty to provide free home to school transport for certain pupils.
- Dial-a-ride: most large urban areas and many small towns have a door-to-door transport service for people who are unable to use public transport. They are known by a variety of names besides Dial-a-Ride (Ring-and-Ride, Dial-a-Journey) but essentially provide a similar service. Outside London such services are run and funded by the local authorities or community transport associations. In London Dial-a-Ride Limited was incorporated in 1991 as a contingency measure, should it have become necessary for certain services to be operated directly; it has never traded. It is owned and operated by Transport for London (TfL).
- Wheels to Work: there are a number of Wheels to Work schemes in rural areas across the country which provide people with transport solutions for a short period to get to employment, training or education. It generally involves the loan of a means of transport, such as a moped for a fixed period of time (normally around six months).
- Group hire services: essentially these are cheap alternatives to accessible minibus hire for local community groups.
How is it funded and is it enough?
In 2013/14 there were over 15 million passenger trips provided by at least 2,000 community transport organisations in England.
There are no collected statistics for community transport funding.
- The Government has made various single year funds available for community transport (e.g. £20 million for 2011 and 2012 and, most recently, £25 million for 2015).
- Bus Service Operator’s Grant (BSOG) is also paid to community transport operators, and part of the BSOG that was devolved to local authorities in the last Parliament included an amount in respect of their own in-house community transport operations. In October 2014 DfT estimated that, in total, BSOG paid in respect of community transport services was approximately £7.8m.
- The Department for Transport also provides £200,000 per year to the Community Transport Association (CTA).
Generally, the Government’s views is that “given their greater knowledge and experience of local transport issues, … it should be for local transport authorities, working in partnership with their communities, to identify the right solutions that meet the economic and environmental challenges faced in their areas and deliver the greatest benefits for their area. Local Authorities can use a variety of sources of finance, whether from central government or locally raised, to fund the provision of Community Transport”. [DfT, HC 719, October 2014]
Local authorities that make payments to community transport operators must abide by EU state aid rules.
There have been concerns in recent years that community transport has been under pressure to replace local bus services that have been cut as part of wider local authority funding reductions, and that they do not have the resources to compensate for all of these cuts. For example, the Campaign for Better Transport told the Transport Select Committee that “community transport can only fill between 10% and 15% of former supported transport provision”. [HC 288, July 2014, para 35]
What is the main legislation?
There are two types of community transport licence. Section 18 of the Transport Act 1985, as amended, provides an exemption from PSV operator and driver licensing requirements of vehicles used under permits. There are two types of community transport permits – section 19 and section 22 permits:
- Section 19 of the 1985 Act allows community-based organisations to operate small buses (9-16 passenger seats) and charge a fare without the need for public service vehicle (PSV) licensing, provided they run on a not-for-profit basis and carry restricted groups of passengers. The conditions relating to the driver and vehicle of a Section 19 permit service are given in the Section 19 Permit Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/365).
- Section 22 of the 1985 Act allows community-based groups to operate small buses which are available to the general public (9-16 passenger seats) and charge a fare without the need for PSV licensing, providing volunteer drivers are used and the operation is run on a not-for-profit basis. The conditions relating to the driver and vehicle of a Section 22 permit service are given in the Community Bus Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/366).
Gov.uk, Find out about community transport services and Shopmobility [accessed 14 December 2015]
Community Transport Association website [accessed 14 December 2015]
Royal Voluntary Service, Community transport [accessed 14 December 2015]
HC Library briefing, Westminster Hall debate: Cost of school transport, CDP2015-002, 24 June 2015
DfT, Community transport operator funding: EU state aid rules, 14 January 2015
DfT, Community transport minibus fund, 28 November 2014
Transport Committee, 8th Special Report – Passenger transport in isolated communities: Government Response, HC 719, 31 October 2014
Transport Committee, Passenger transport in isolated communities, 4th Report 2014-15, HC 288, 22 July 2014
DfT, Section 19 and 22 permits: not for profit passenger transport, 7 August 2013
Defra, Wheels to work, 23 March 2010