Monday, 24 June 2019

HandyBus charity warns of cuts threat

HENLEY’S HandyBus service might have to be scaled back if passenger numbers continue to decline, organisers have warned.

The charity, which takes elderly residents on trips to shops and social clubs, says it is attracting fewer people once again after previously seeing an increase.

Only 6,500 or so people have used the service in the past 12 months compared with 8,000 in the year before that. Between 2016 and 2017 it had just 6,000 users.

Richard Hodgkin, the chairman of trustees, said there were no plans for cuts at the moment but in the long term numbers would have to go up again for it to remain viable.

At times there are only one or two passengers on the 15-seater minibus and if this remains the same or decreases further, the charity may have to reduce the number of weekly journeys.

The charity runs trips to Reading on alternate Tuesday mornings with another bus to Nettlebed, Howe Hill, Stonor and the Assendons as well as taking people to the Henley 60+ Club in Greys Road car park, the Bluebells dementia club at the Christ Church Centre and other day services.

There are also weekly journeys from sheltered housing developments to the two main supermarkets. Passengers are collected and dropped off at their doors.

The service is wheelchair accessible and the regular trips are free of charge to bus pass holders. The bus may also be hired for evening and weekend outings.

Mr Hodgkin, of Nicholas Road, Henley, said: “There’s been a slight drop-off over the past 12 months and while it’s certainly not desperate we would like to see it increase.

“It’s not a great concern at this stage but it’d be nice to reverse it fairly soon.

“Most of our passengers are elderly and there has been a bit of a drop-off in people going to the 60+ Club so we’ve spoken to the club to try to chivvy up more business.

“If the trend continues we’d have to think seriously about our next steps.

“We’ll do everything we can to avoid making cuts and would like to make people aware of our service as it is a valuable means for some people to get out of the house for the day.”

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