Am Bratach No. 249
July 2012

New minibus due in September

by Fiona Burnett

Tongue transport group has ambitious plans to expand services
Grant funding of over £50,000 has come from two sources — Village SOS Big Lottery Fund, which donated £30,000, and £20,000-plus from Caithness and North Sutherland Fund — to make it possible for Transport for Tongue (T4T) to purchase a brand new 15-seater minibus with wheelchair access, costing in the region of £41,000, with delivery expected in September. Both grant organisations had set criteria for the use of the money with the majority going towards the purchase of the new vehicle while the remainder will finance start-up costs.

“We are extremely grateful for the funding in place for the new minibus,” said chairwoman, Ngaire Mingham. “However to run the Section 22 service we also require an additional second-hand vehicle to implement the additional routes as well as for back up. Our current minibus is too small and doesn’t meet the required criteria; therefore we are currently involved with local fundraising to purchase this extra vehicle.”

Plans to extend the core services provided by the group are progressing with three proposed routes in the pipeline. The new routes, which aim to be operational in September, will be a fixed return route from Tongue-Durness every Tuesday, with flexible routes operating on a Dial-a-Ride basis for the other two: Strathnaver to Tongue via Skerray, Scullomie and Braetongue every Thursday, and Tongue to Melness every Friday.

Once these routes become registered under a Section 22 Transport Permit members of the community will be allowed to use their concessionary bus passes on registered routes, both fixed and flexible. It should be noted that those who are eligible for free transport must present the driver with a valid bus pass, otherwise they will be charged for their journey. Those who require carer support on journeys can upgrade their current bus pass for a “companion card” which will allow their carer to travel free. Application forms can be obtained from local service points.

The above three routes currently provide transport provision for people attending the Kyle Centre in Tongue, now known as North Coast Connection (NCC) and once registered under a Section 22 permit these routes will be open to the wider community with seat priority given to those attending, and who have booked, through NCC.

T4T work closely with North Coast Connection, having taken over their transport provision from Highland Council in April this year. “We feel the arrangement with T4T is working very well,” said Dr Marion Macdougall, who chairs NCC.
Other routes being planned include Tongue-Inverness on the last Saturday of the month, and Tongue to Lairg once or twice a week.

T4T aim to provide a transport service to the leisure centre, which includes a swimming pool, at Bettyhill as part of their future development plans.

Residents of Tongue, Melness and Skerray can still rely on T4T’s original core services offering transport to access local services and amenities with the use of the 5-seater disabled access car as well as volunteer drivers using their own vehicles, which will continue to operate alongside the impending proposed and planned registered routes.
In its relatively short lifetime, Transport for Tongue has taken local residents to the health centre, bank, post office and shops, as well as to the dentist in Lairg.

Irene Joyce of Dalnafree, West Strathan, Melness, said: “T4T personnel have always been very helpful and considerate”. May Munro, Braetongue, commented: “It’s good to have this service as I no longer have a car. It enables me to get to the chiropodist and doctor”.

Further details of registered routes, fares and timetables will be available prior to the official T4T launch of these new services in September.

T4T evolved in January 2009 through the 040, Older People for Older People Project, an EU Northern Periphery Programme which enabled the parish of Tongue, Melness and Skerray to develop an initiative, which had been identified as a priority by the community, lack of local transport, primarily aimed at older people, as well as those who had no access to their own transport.

Anyone requiring core services should call Laura Findlay on 01847 601238 between 10am-12 noon, Monday to Friday, using the answer machine outwith hours. Private hire of T4T’s minibus is also available when not in use and anyone interested in hiring the bus for social functions should contact Ken Palmer on 01847 611768 for more information.

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