crucial rural lifeline closes

A VITAL rural service will finish at the end of next month bec]ause of a lack of money. Travel Connections community transport project, provided by Stepping Stones, will stop owing to a loss of funding.

The ending of the service will affect nearly 400 South Carrick residents who use the project.

Since 2002, the project has provided essential journeys to employment, health, training and social inclusion activities.

The cut follows Stagecoach’s plan to change its timetable, ending a busy service.

Edie Scobie, project manager at Stepping Stones for families, said: “Travel Connections, our local community transport project, will end on August 31 due to lack of funding. The project was funded initially by the Scottish Government then Strathclyde Partnership for Transport. To help sustain this community transport lifeline, additional funds were received from the local wind farms, South Ayrshire Council Social Inclusion Partnership and funds from Stepping Stones for Families reserves.”

The project, recognising the need to combat poverty and rural isolation, removed transport barriers to employment, social inclusion activities and a range of new opportunities. Travel Connections was established in 2002 for the purpose of two years action research into the transport needs of the KA26 rural communities.

Mr Scobie added: “Many thanks to the Village Champions, volunteer drivers and local private hire firms who have supported us to deliver Travel Connections. Almost 400 local residents registered to use the service and on average 4000 journeys were arranged each year. By far the highest percentage of the journeys was for travel to employment. South Ayrshire Council, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, Ailsa Horizons and Stepping Stones for Families are exploring an alternative, more sustainable, community transport service within the Carrick area.”

The aim of the project was to make a positive difference to the lives of families living in the Carrick area by utilising private hire firms and volunteer drivers to provide subsidised transport to employment, health, training and social inclusion activities at times when neither private nor public transport was available.

l Dumfries and Galloway Council is to carry out an assessment into the effect of busing ferry passengers from Cairnryan to Ayr rather than using the Stranraer rail link after Stena Line moves to its new terminal in the autumn.