Community bus service to refocus after contracts lost

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By Christchurch People | Thursday, March 03, 2011, 11:00

A PLEDGE of £10,000 from the community fundraising scheme of a supermarket has been a timely announcement for a community bus service which has lost its contract to run subsidised commercial services.

NordCat, the community transport scheme based in Sturminster Newton, has learned that it will cease operating subsidised commercial services at the end of the month.

Manager Helen Reed said it was being viewed as a positive opportunity for the service, which was founded as a charity community transport scheme, to consolidate and refocus on its roots and provide demand-led transport chiefly for the elderly and disabled.

After launching in North Dorset, the charity now operates its charitable services across the county and beyond, in Christchurch, Purbeck and the Cranborne Chase.

Since 2006 it has been running several routes under the county’s Door to Dorset banner, and three years ago it won the contract to supply the commercial subsidised X83 service previously operated by Wilts & Dorset.

Ms Reed said: “We are going back to our roots, and will be redeveloping the charitable side. The commercial side was meant to fund it, but to a large extent it was not doing so, and wasn’t much better than achieving break even. But it means we need more funding to support the charity work.”

Nordcat was in negotiations with the Southern Co-operatives, which had pledged a share of its community support fund.

Ms Reed said: “The £10,000 will buy us a new minibus. The loss of the commercial contract means buses supplied for those services will have to go back. We will concentrate on using smaller buses from now on.”

Nordcat staff employed on commercial services are being transferred to a new operator.

Ms Reed said Nordcat was seeking other services it could offer, and had been working with Kingston Maurward College on a new contract.

She continued: “We will be sad to lose our commercial passengers, many of whom have said they are disappointed we are having to give it up. But we will now be able to re-invent ourselves, and we see it as a very positive move.”

Other beneficiaries of the Co-op scheme are OpenMic@The Exchange and Sturminster Newton Scouts. The fundraising target is £25,000, with £10,000 being allocated to Nordcat, and £7,500 each to Open Mic and the Scouts.

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