What works: Successful community transport

The Power to Change Research Institute commissioned NatCen Social Research and WPI Economics to study established businesses in the community transport sector, to identify key success factors and draw out lessons for others operating in this sector.

Community transport organisations (CTO) are created and run by local people who want to run transport services for people who are less mobile (e.g. young people and the elderly) and far from existing transport routes. Not only do they provide a valuable service, connect people with local services, they also help tackle isolation and promote social cohesion. Our study particularly focused on community buses, although other CTOs such as community ferries and trains operate in a similar fashion.

As well as running a financially viable service like commercial bus companies, their success relies on having a culture of change enabling them to adapt to the market and passenger needs. This, in combination with careful asset management makes them flexible and resilient. For CTOs, nurturing a range of partnerships with the community and other service providers is key. Relationships with advice-giving organisations (e.g. Community Transport Association) are especially important as these enable navigation of complex transport regulations.

Four business were studied in-depth: Barnet Community Transport in London, Cuckmere Community Bus in East Sussex, The Friendly Transport Service in Shropshire, and Tavistock Country Bus in Devon.

By Mehul Kotecha, Malen Davies, Guy Miscampbell, Matt Barnard and Steve Hughes