DORSET County Council is backing community-run transport links to keep people in rural areas connected.

Over the last year, the council has provided support for communities to consider and set up their own transport schemes.

The initiatives follow the decision by DCC last February to reduce subsidies for public bus services by £1.5 million over two years, in the light of having to save £16 million in 2016/7. The council saved £500,000 in 2016/17 by reducing funding for infrequent rural bus services and focusing on services used by the most people.

It still needs to save a further £1 million on public transport, as well as £850,000 on school transport in 2017/18 to contribute its overall savings target of £18.3million. Councillors will discuss and set the budget at a meeting tomorrow.

In the past year the council has produced a community transport tool kit for communities to start up a transport scheme

in their area - more than 350 tool kits have been distributed.

The council has also offered match-funding for community transport grants of up to £5,000.

Efforts have also been made for councillors to attend community meetings across the county as well as encouraging transport providers tendering for school bus contracts to consider setting up community services between school runs.

Since April 2016, 20 trial community transport schemes have been introduced across Dorset by a number of operators. Dorset Community Transport’s PlusBus has introduced the most trial schemes.

During September and October 2016, more than 2,600 people responded to a consultation on changes to public and schools transport.

Cllr Peter Finney, cabinet member for environment, highways and infrastructure, said: “With the financial challenges we face, the current model of subsidised transport in Dorset is unsustainable. We need to focus the available funding on those routes that carry the most people and do most to support our economy.

“We are working in partnership with communities to develop a thriving network of locally-owned transport links across Dorset.” In time, we see this becoming integrated with a core number of town-to-town routes, commercially operated services and our own transport fleet to give people a more flexible range of travel options.”

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