COMMUNITY MINIBUS SERVICE
The service exists to take the elderly and the disabled shopping, to club events, to lunches and on day trips out to the countryside. It has become a vital lifeline to many of the less fortunate members of our community. Without it many would be housebound. One of the frequent users of the service recently commented, 'If it wasn't for the minibus and its wheelchair access, we wouldn't be able to go anywhere.'
The bus picks up its passengers from their homes in the town and the surrounding villages of Bighton, Cheriton, Gundleton, Old Alresford and Ropley and takes them shopping in Alton, Basingstoke, Petersfield and Winchester as well as bringing people into Alresford to visit the library or to have coffee at the Swan Hotel. It is used to take the elderly and infirm to the seaside, to the New Forest and to other places of interest in Hampshire. On Watercress Festival Day every year, it brings in to town those individuals who otherwise could not enjoy Alresford's day in the spotlight.
Age Concern, the Alzheimer's' Society, the Giles Group (who care for those who use wheelchairs), Makins Court and Chiltern Court (who organise the provision of sheltered housing) and Ellingham Court (who provide housing for those who are retired) all make use of the bus. The bus covers approximately 10,000 miles per year completing nearly 600 journeys.
Even with all of this usage, the bus could do more. It is not used to its capacity in terms of seats per journey. It has thirteen seats with spaces for two wheelchairs and they are rarely all fully occupied. If you are over sixty or disabled at any age, please just pick up the phone to be added to the transport rota. If you have a relative or a friend who you think could benefit from the service, why not get in touch with the minibus organiser? There is no waiting list; our response will be immediate.
Neither is the bus used to its full potential in terms of time on the road. If you are involved in an organisation or a community group that cares for the elderly or the infirm and wish to use the bus, please do get in touch with Pam Stevens. All that is asked is a donation towards the petrol and running costs of the vehicle.
The minibus drivers are all volunteers who give of their time freely. At present there are thirty of them and they all live locally. They have all had a medical check and receive special training every four years through MIDAS. This stands for the Minibus Driver Awareness Scheme and is run by the University of Winchester. The Trust has very recently received a grant of £500 from Winchester City Council to cover this training through to 2010.
One passenger commented recently, 'Your drivers are all so kind; one of them even carried my shopping into my house and helped me put it away'.
We are always in need of more drivers to provide cover for illnesses and holidays. If you interested in becoming a volunteer driver and are under the age of seventy please contact Pam Stevens. All you need is a full driving licence with no record of convictions. She will arrange all the other necessary details.
Financing the Service
If we assume that the average life of a minibus is seven years, the Town Trust has probably raised the capital to purchase five or six vehicles during the forty-year life of the service. The latest brand new yellow bus, a Ford Transit 430 Wanderer, was purchased in October 2008 for £55,000. This was funded mainly from Town Trust reserves and funds from the sale of the old vehicle.
However, without the generosity of other bodies the current new and improved service would not exist. Grants towards the cost were received from Old Alresford Parish Council, New Alresford Town Council and Winchester City Council. Groups such as the Alresford Surgery, Mid Hants Railway, New Alresford PIGS, Alresford Rotary and the St Lawrence Chapter of Freemasons all made donations to the minibus fund and gifts were received from individuals and companies. If you have ever wondered, this is why the new bus sports so many different logos.
It is estimated that a new vehicle will be next needed in 2015 and plans have been drawn up by the Town Trustees to ensure that sufficient capital is raised in good time. This estimate proved to be incorrect and the minibus has soliered on for a little longer. A new minibus has been ordered for delivery in March 2017.
Garaging and maintenance
The minibus is garaged off Meryon Road. The building has recently had to be extended because our new vehicle is bigger than its predecessors. This has involved not only making the garage longer but also digging out the floor to provide more height. We have also taken the opportunity to improve safety and security by installing electricity and both inside and outside lighting. The total cost of this work was £10,000. Grants from Hampshire County Council, New Alresford Town Council, Winchester City Council and from Ropley and Cheriton Parish Councils allowed this to happen.
Every two weeks the bus is thoroughly cleaned both inside and outside and given a thorough check over by New Farm Motor Services Ltd who also provide regular servicing maintenance.
We wish to continue running this service that so many find invaluable. To do so we need money to fund the purchase of a new vehicle in the future, to pay for the running costs of our expanding service, to fund driver training and to further improve what we do. If you would like to make a donation, however small, please contact Pam Stevens. e-mail All donations will be gratefully received and acknowledged accordingly.