Volunteer bus drivers save Isle of Wight routes

Wightbus bus
Image caption The volunteer bus services could start in September

Volunteers are being trained on the Isle of Wight to drive buses on rural routes which otherwise would have been axed in council budget cuts.

The Wightbus service had been due to stop running at the end of August in cuts by the Conservative-led authority.

But island bus firm Southern Vectis has agreed to plans to provide vehicles so volunteers can drive the routes.

The firm will also fund training, fuel and insurance as part of a deal forming a wider agreement with the council.

The scheme was included in a new one-year contract between the two parties.

Hopefuls must be licensed, pass a medical and a Criminal Records Bureau check as well as complete driver training with the bus firm.

'Probably a first'

Any income from fares will be retained to cover volunteers' administration costs.

It is hoped the service will start from September.

Rusty Adams, from Gurnard, Cowes and Northwood Community Transport Forum, said numerous people have come forward, including parish councillors and shopkeepers.

He added: "Southern Vectis has realised that if these routes go it will affect them too as they act as a feeder service on to their main services."

Councillor Edward Giles said: "I am pleased to say that the council has been able to negotiate this arrangement with Southern Vectis which I think is probably a first in the country."

The firm will provide eight vehicles between 0930 and 1400 BST Monday to Friday.

Marc Morgan-Huws, from Southern Vectis, said: "About half the cost of a route comes from staff and the rest is generally covered from fares."

He said the service would attract a lot of over-60s with council-funded bus passes, guaranteeing revenue.

"While [the services] are relatively small they are critical to those local communities where they operate," he added.

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