Red Bus stays on the road

May 13, 2013

By Christine Keighery

The Community Transport Bus in Crossmaglen, which is a lifeline to many in the locality, is thankfully set to continue its vital service, with extended provision to the community. The “Red Bus,” as it is known locally, was in real danger of grinding to a halt as it had been operating without funding for the last few years, with community  fundraising sustaining the shortfall of approximately £4,000.

Owned and operated by the Crossmaglen Community Association, the vehicle is used exclusively by the elderly and less-abled throughout south Armagh, transporting them to and from Day Centres, Luncheon Clubs and Community Centre events such as craft classes and social evenings.  It is one of only a few vehicles in the area that has an approved wheelchair lift, enabling wheelchair users to travel safely and comfortably and has provided some of the community’s most vulnerable with an outstanding service for almost three decades.

Funds and generous grants from bodies such as the National Lottery, the Rural Development Council, the Health Trust and Newry and Mourne Council had all expired, and with further funding proving difficult to secure, the future of the service was in real jeopardy.   An emergency meeting of the Crossmaglen Community Association meeting in March discussed ceasing the service due to the increased financial pressures.

However, the association has now teamed up with Newry and Mourne Community Transport, and the hugely popular service is set to continue and grow throughout the area.  The Rural Community Transport Scheme , which is funded through the Department of Regional Development (DRD) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), aims to  increase the use of the bus, with anyone over the age of 65 eligible to avail of the free door-to-door service which has already proved so successful in other areas.

The Crossmaglen Community Association feel that, as a rural community who suffer from a lack of transport facilities, the scheme should prove equally successful in south Armagh. While management of bookings will go through Newry and Mourne Community Transport, the community association will retain ownership of the bus and all existing provisions will remain the same.

Sinn Fein Councillor Colman Burns, who is a member of the Community Transport Committee, said he was delighted to hear the Red Bus would remain on the road to continue its invaluable service for the local elderly community.  Having originally brought forward the idea of a collaboration to Brian Groves, Chairman of Newry and Mourne Community Transport, the Councillor said he was pleased that a solution had been found to enable the service to carry out the “important work it does in providing a free and safe transport facility for our senior citizens.”

The service can be used by anyone with a Smart Card, which allows free travel, for any purpose – from a visit to the shops to a solicitor’s appointment or the hairdressers.  A group of elderly friends who fancy a day out in Newry shopping and a bite to eat can use the “dial-a lift” service to arrange transport.

Nursing home residents can also use the free service to attend appointments or social outings too.

The Crossmaglen Community Association is delighted that the Red Bus service can continue to enhance the lives of elderly residents, and stresses that the service is not restricted to medical or other appointments but can be used for all types of social outings and occasions.

The members would also like to thank the local community for their continued support and the various user groups who have helped enormously with fundraising efforts and through kind donations.

For more information on the Red Bus or to use the door-to-door service, please contact : Newry and Mourne Community Transport on 028 30265635.