GOVERNMENT funding has been welcomed by a community transport group that lost a vehicle in a fire last summer.
The Community Minibus Association (West Sussex) is among more than 300 organisations and charities celebrating after receiving a share of £25million from the Department of Transport.
The team, which works unpaid, lost a minibus when it burst into flames in Dingemans Court, Shooting Field, Steyning, last August.
It was the spare minibus from the Storrington division and was used because the Steyning division’s bus was away being serviced.
Rodger Hunt, Storrington divisional organiser, said: “It is not specifically to replace the bus that caught fire, it is just fortuitous it happened so soon after.
“We were very lucky, at the time the passengers had got off and the driver was returning the bus to base. It happened in ten minutes –amazingly quickly.”
We were very lucky, at the time the passengers had got off and the driver was returning the bus to base. It happened in ten minutes –amazingly quickly.Rodger Hunt, Storrington divisional organiser
The association has delivered regular services to areas including Steyning, Pulborough and Storrington for around 40 years.
Rodger, 72, who lives in Storrington, said the new minibus would be the 13th in the fleet.
He explained the hard work that goes into the upkeep of the organisation: “I used to run the Steyning and West Chiltington division and in its busiest time we ran something like 90 trips a month with five buses at the time and 42 drivers as well as a dozen or so administrators – and that was just Steyning.
“A lot of the organisations of a similar nature have felt the recession quite harshly and any finances we had have long since disappeared.
“We are trying to make sure we are here for the next 40 years as well as the last.”
The Community Transport Minibus Fund targeted help at elderly residents, as well as people with learning and physical disabilities, and those who do not have access to a commercial bus service.
The minibuses provided will improve the everyday lives of people in rural communities and provide a vital link to medical services, shops, and social events, the Department for Transport said. Following this first round of allocations, it will use the fund to support other schemes this summer.