West Berkshire Volunteer Centre Handybus celebrates 35-year partnership with West Berkshire Council
A West Berkshire charity has celebrated a 35-year partnership with the launch of two new community buses to its fleet.
Driven by Volunteer Centre West Berkshire’s (VCWB) volunteer drivers, Handybus is one of the district’s community transport services supporting older people and those with disabilities, who would otherwise struggle to get out and do their own shopping.
The service enables people to maintain their independence and provides important social interaction that helps to reduce isolation.
The launch of the two new Handybuses marked 35 years of Handybus’s partnership with West Berkshire Council.
The service started in 1986 with Newbury District Council, now West Berkshire District Council, first investing in community transport – establishing a partnership with Newbury Volunteer Bureau, now Volunteer Centre West Berkshire.
The keys to the first bus were handed to Kath Harding, then chairman of trustees of the bureau, by the late councillor Keith Lock who was council chairman at the time. The service now undertakes around 10,000 passenger trips each year.
VCWB's chair of trustees Brien Beharrell said: “The Handybus service operating in Newbury and Thatcham is the perfect partnership of statutory and voluntary sectors, with West Berkshire council providing funds for the hardware and Handybus recruiting and training its volunteers.
"Newbury and Thatcham Handybus coordinate the needs of the passengers, insures and maintains the three-vehicle fleet and buys the fuel.”
The council works with VCWB to invest in community transport – providing almost £48,000 this year to enable the charity to purchase the two new fully accessible Peugeot Boxers. One of the two new buses is called ‘Fred the Bus’ to commemorate a long-serving driver.
West Berkshire Council chairman, Clive Hooker (Con, Downlands) met passengers of a new Handybus, along with retired council transport officer Mike Blackshaw, who initiated the community transport scheme in the district.
Mr Hooker said: “It is an achievement to be celebrating what could well be one of the most enduring partnership the council has had with the voluntary sector, and it’s great to have the opportunity to meet a volunteer driver and some of the people who enjoy and benefit from travelling on Handybus.
"The fact that the service is run by volunteers ensures that it can be run at a low cost and the council is very grateful to the drivers, other volunteers and the coordinators who give up their time to support local people.”
For more information about the Handybus service call (01635) 37111 between 9am and 1pm, Monday to Thursday.
Information about other community transport services can be found at https://info.westberks.gov.uk/communitytransport
Anyone with specific needs or requiring more information can contact the council’s Transport Team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning (01635) 519394.