Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has met with the Community Transport Association today to discuss pressures facing the service.
Cathal Boylan said:
“I met today with the Community Transport Association today alongside my colleague Liz Kimmins MLA.
“Rural community transport in the north currently provides over 200,000 trips a year to older people, those with disabilities and the most isolated and vulnerable communities across the north.
“The majority of these journeys are for health-related reasons, from attending GP appointments to tackling loneliness and improving mental health and demonstrates the necessity of community transport.
“We need to find ways we can strengthen this vital service at times of huge financial pressure.
“This includes reviewing the guidance on minibus licensing issued by the Department for Infrastructure in 2018 that restricted people with Minibus grandfather rights from working forcommunity transport.
“This change has been detrimental to the functions of schools, churches, charities and third sector organisations that seek to operate community transport.
“We also should introduce a community bus permit, to allow communities and organisations to have local registered bus route to fill in the gaps of our currently constrained transport network.
“These changes could go a long way to addressing social isolation, decreasing dependence on private vehicles and providing equal access to vital opportunities and services.
“Tory austerity policy has stripped away public service funding for vital services like community transport.
“Sinn Féin are committed to finding innovative ways to improve these services during these times of heavy financial constraint.”