Volunteers are our bus-driving force

Ian Harris, volunteer driver and office manager with Bexhill Community Bus SUS-170130-105059001
Ian Harris, volunteer driver and office manager with Bexhill Community Bus SUS-170130-105059001

Rother Voluntary Action

Bexhill Community Bus is one of the town’s longest running community projects. It provides a regular public service to help people get to the parts of Bexhill and its outskirts that are not served by commercial operators. It is thanks to a 35-strong team of volunteers that four different bus routes run in and around town every day (except Sundays and Bank Holidays). Journey costs are very low – just £1 for adults, 50 pence for children and free for those with bus passes. People of all ages use the service to go shopping, get to and from school, to attend doctors’ and hospital appointments and to visit friends and family. Most buses on the routes have a volunteer conductor as well as a driver. The conductor takes fares, helps passengers to board and alight and assists with their shopping trolleys and pushchairs.

Ian Harris (pictured) has been volunteering with Bexhill Community Bus for some 26 years. As well as driving he also runs the office and plays a big part in managing the service. He said: “I took early retirement and needed something to fill my days so I volunteered as a bus driver. I enjoy the social interaction with passengers – you get to know the regulars and build up a rapport with them – it’s a friendly service.

“I also find satisfaction from giving a good service to the town and helping the other citizens of Bexhill. People are very appreciative of the service, as for many of them, our buses are a lifeline. This country would grind to a halt if we didn’t have voluntary services.”

The service has been supported by RVA since before the first Bexhill Community bus set off on its inaugural journey on September 13, 1980. The service came about when public transport cuts resulted in most of the town’s commercial buses being withdrawn. A group of local people led by Doug Upton, vice-chairman of the Bexhill Council of Voluntary Services (now RVA), succeeded in obtaining funding and recruiting volunteers to set up a viable community bus service. Since then it has gone from strength to strength and now carries some 700 passengers every week.

Although the income from fares covers the operational costs of the service, Bexhill Community Bus could not keep running without the dedicated team of volunteers. Indeed, their efforts have been recognised with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest accolade given to volunteer groups working in the community.

RVA is the local organisation that drives the voluntary and community sector in Rother. We work with voluntary and community groups which run activities and support services, helping our community to thrive. Although these groups provide a vital service, they operate in isolation, often without funding or support. We provide the resources, expert advice and practical support to help them operate effectively. There is more information about the work we do and the projects we support, including Bexhill Community Bus, on our website www.rva.uk.com

For more information about Bexhill Community Bus, including routes and timetables please visit www.bexhillcommunitybus.co.uk