At the end of June, The Parish Trust announced that it would be reviewing its Hospital Shuttle Bus provision due to lack of use. It was determined then that the charity would wait one more month to see if usage increased. Sadly, this has not happened, and, in consultation with the Community Transport Association, The Parish Trust has decided to cease operation of the shuttle bus service to the Grange University Hospital.
The Shuttle Bus Service ran for seven months (one month longer than planned) in order to give it the maximum chance of gaining traction in the community. The Parish Trust was awarded over £13,000 from the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board to run a pilot project on a small scale to see if demand was there to run a more substantial service. Sadly, despite best efforts to advertise the service, and a wide community consultation prior to applying for funding, the General Public did not support the service in to the extent that was needed in order to secure a financial break-even position for the charity.
Rev. Dean Aaron Roberts, Chair of Trustees, said,
We are very sad to have to pull a project from The Parish Trust’s portfolio that had so much potential. We tried our best to offer something that was deemed to be needed in the community, but in the end, the charity could not sustain the service. A lack of use, coupled with the cost of living crisis impinging on our work has meant that the charity has suffered a financial loss from running this project. We didn’t set out to make a profit from the shuttle bus, but we did plan for a break-even position so that we could help the community and expand the service as it got used by more people. Sadly, the statistics speak for themselves with single figures using it sporadically, and it is now unlikely that a public transport service direct from Caerphilly to the Health Board’s major hospital will return any time soon. This was a pilot scheme to see if there was genuine need for public transport to get to The Grange Hospital, and the results of that pilot have sent a message that the service wasn’t needed as much as people thought.
We understand that some may justify the lack of use of the shuttle bus by saying that customers had to book, or that the days it operated were too restrictive, or that the service wasn’t advertised enough.
However, we can respond as an organisation firstly by saying that we are a charity (and not a statutory organisation) and therefore we rely on grants and public donations to do our work. Therefore, our offering was always going to be limited somewhat and that the service would only expand if people used what we had put in place initially.
Secondly, booking was a part of the deal of the pilot scheme as the licensing restrictions to operate a public transport service require it.
Thirdly, we advertised as much as we could given the budget we had to run the project. We had to pay a driver a living wage for the work they did and the time it took to deliver the service, plus administrative support, license fees, vehicle maintenance and safety checks required by the Traffic Commissioner, fuel, insurance, and advertising & printing costs. The money was quickly accounted for and the driver even tried to give the project extra time to get off the ground by agreeing to a flexible employment contract.
We are as disappointed as many others that this service will no longer be available, but the old saying is true: “use it, or lose it”. What I can say is that we may look to offer a different model of service in the future, but this will depend on whether it is financially viable, with the charity having to find £14,500 each month to run, which is why we are asking the public to join our Feed a Fiver campaign.
The Caerphilly Observer has recently reported on two local Councillors who trialled a public transport trip to The Grange University Hospital, taking them two hours to get there, and thus highlighting the complexity of getting to The Grange from the Caerphilly area. The Parish Trust Shuttle bus cut the travel time by more than half.
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