Fears over ‘lifeline’ rural transport service

A Greysteel woman who is blind has expressed concerns over a “lifeline” rural transport service she fears may experience substantial changes as a result of possible funding cuts.

Margaret Moore from Greysteel has been using Dial A Lift, which is operated by North Coast Community Transport (NCCT). The programme is funded by the Department of Regional Development and provides individuals with a door-to-door travel service.

Ms Moore, who is aged 59, says the service means she is not isolated and gives her great independence. She says she lives in a very rural area and, without the service, she would spend most of her time at home, with little social contact.

“It’s a lifeline to me,” she said, explaining it’s not just her who is concerned about the service, but others around the borough. “I’ve had people in Ballykelly and Dungiven ringing me, concerned.”

Ms Moore believes if there are any changes to funding, the service would be severely impacted and, while the service would pick her up at home and take her to the bus stop, she would have to travel on a regular Ulsterbus into the city. She says given her disability that would be very difficult.

“We have to fight our battle, but we are also willing to pay for the service,” said Margaret, who currently uses her Blind Pass while friends use their Smart Pass. “We don’t want any changes to the service because it is fantastic.”

A spokesperson for North Coast Community Transport stressed: “The service is still available. However, restructuring changes may have to be made to how the service is delivered.”

The spokesperson also encouraged people to be flexible when it comes to using the service, and for as many people as possible to use it to make it as cost effective and efficient as it can be.

A DRD Roads Service spokesperson said: “The total amount of funding which will be available to North Coast Community Transport for 2012/2013 has yet to be determined. The Department is currently considering the business and financial plans submitted from all the rural community transport partnerships of which North Coast is one.

“The Department are, however, aware of the increased demand for services provided by the partnerships and although funding from the Department was not reduced during the last budget exercise, no new funding is available.

“The increase in demand for services and the rising cost in providing these, together with no new additional funding being available, may lead to each partnership having to prioritise who can use the services and how often.”

SDLP Colr. Orla Beattie people to be flexible and support the service, espcially given the high prices of fuel. “North Coast Community Transport is a fantastic organisation that provides transport to the most vulnerable and isolated people in our borough,” she said. “The service they provide is, for many, invaluable. Unfortunately, like so many groups, they may have their funding reduced, which will understandably affect the type of service they can viably provide. I would encourage anybody who can avail of the service to use it more to help make some routes more cost effective.”