Minibus is key to villagers' freedom
VILLAGERS without their own transport have welcomed a community minibus to shuttle them to the shops and back.
The Uffington, Baulking and Woolstone (UBW) Minibus Association’s service has been transformed by their new acquisition, a larger, more convenient minibus.
The group spent more than five months raising £24,000 for the 16-seater – an important feature because it is the maximum size for a volunteer-driven vehicle.
John Hatcher, 68, from Uffington, is the administrator of the UBW association.
He said: “The new bus is extremely comfortable and inside it is about a foot and a half longer, it is really up to the minute.
“There are only a few hundred of us in these villages, and none of the small organisations could afford a minibus of their own.
“We had the last one for nine years and it had started to show signs of ageing.
“It seemed a good idea to replace it as reliability is an important issue.”
Twelve volunteers run shifts driving the bus, which takes elderly residents shopping in Faringdon each Tuesday and in Wantage on Fridays. It is also used by schools to take pupils on day trips, and is also available for private hire.
The group charges a small fee, but also accepts county council bus passes from retired passengers.
While the money they raised was not enough to cover the cost of depreciation, they managed to save about £10,000 towards the new bus.
The White Horse Show also donated about £8,500, and the association was given £2,500 for the old minibus.
Joyce Clarke, 87, from Uffington, said: “I have to walk with two sticks, and it is much easier to get in because the step lowers automatically, and I don’t have to have people helping me on.
“It is also slightly bigger and the layout is better.
“I live on the end of a little unmade road, and the bus comes and picks me up from there.”
Uffington has just two bus services. The 67 from Wantage to Faringdon stops at 12.05pm and 4pm on its way to Faringdon and at 9.30am and 1pm going the other way Monday to Saturday.
The Saturday-only X47 from Swindon to Wantage stops at 9.31am, 1.11pm and 4.21pm on the way to Swindon, and at 10.54am, 2.54pm and 5.54pm on the way to Wantage.
The group has been running a service for nine years, since 2003, and used the same minibus, which was also purchased with money donated from the White Horse Show, throughout that time.
l To find out more about the UBW Minibus Association call John Hatcher on 01367 820417.