Community bus - use it or lose it
THE end of the road could be in sight for a North Suffolk community bus scheme unless more people make use of it.The Reydon and Southwold Community Bus has been running, along with co-driver, map-reader and mascot Bruno the teddy bear, since 1991.
THE end of the road could be in sight for a North Suffolk community bus scheme unless more people make use of it.
The Reydon and Southwold Community Bus has been running, along with co-driver, map-reader and mascot Bruno the teddy bear, since 1991.
Fondly known by passengers as "Fred's bus", after Fred Assmann who with his wife Kate looks after it, the red minibus has travelled 126,000 miles, carrying passengers all over Suffolk and sometimes across the border.
But usage of the service has dwindled drastically in the last couple of years, and Mr Assmann is wondering whether the time has come to end the service.
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A former coach driver and driving instructor, Mr Assmann said: "We used to have a permanent contract with Suffolk County Council to take people to a day care centre, and that was a regular income that kept the vehicle going, but since the centre closed we have been struggling.
"We are now eating into our earlier profits just to keep it on the road."
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The bus has been running since 1991, after a committee, of which Mr Assmann from Reydon was a founder member, spent 18 months fundraising to acquire the £24,500 vehicle.
Local businesses including Adnams and charity groups such as the Lions Club and the Round Table all contributed, as well as private donors.
A recent survey in Reydon and Southwold concluded that most people wanted the service to continue, but to make it viable more groups need to make use of the 15-seater vehicle.
At present it is used by St Felix School as a spare minibus, and by groups such as the Women's Institute for outings.
"Without any major problems it costs about £2,500 a year to keep on the road, nearly half of which is insurance," said Mr Assmann.
"We are completely independent, with no subsidies – the idea is that the hire rates pay for its keep."
The bus costs £1 per mile up to 20 miles, or 50p a mile up to 100 miles, and 30p a mile for longer journeys.
It also needs more drivers to volunteer to ferry locals about during the day.
"It will be gone if it's not used," said Mr Assmann.