Fears that legislation changes could damage Honiton transport charity

PUBLISHED: 17:00 14 September 2017 | UPDATED: 09:31 20 September 2017

Manager Neil Hurlock next to TRIP's VW Crafter minibus. Ref mhh 24-16SH 7668. Picture: Simon Horn.

Manager Neil Hurlock next to TRIP's VW Crafter minibus. Ref mhh 24-16SH 7668. Picture: Simon Horn.

Archant

Neil Hurlock, who oversees TRIP in New Street, has expressed his fears about the impact of proposed government changes revealed in a letter produced by the Department for Transport.

The manager of a Honiton community transport charity says a proposal to change how legislation is enforced could ‘stifle’ many of the services it offers.

Neil Hurlock, who oversees TRIP in New Street, has expressed his fears about the impact of proposed government changes detailed in a letter from the Department for Transport (DfT).

The letter revealed that the government is currently consulting on a raft of alterations to existing legislation for all groups using a Section 19 permit under the Transport Act 1985.

This permit, under which TRIP operates all of its vehicles, allows charitable and not-for-profit groups to provide transport services at a reduced cost.

But in its letter, the DfT warned that an operator whose activities mirror that of a bus company, in that it employs salaried drivers and carries out services under won contracts, cannot be regarded as carrying out its activities ‘exclusively for non-commercial purposes’.

As a result of this, the DfT added, operators can not operate any vehicles under a section 19 permit as it ‘falls outside the scope of the derogation’.

This means TRIP could be forced to consider the way it is run if it wants to carry on with any commercial work.

Mr Hurlock says if the proposed alterations are approved, the regulations could greatly increase the charity’s vehicle operating costs - potentially forcing its ‘essential’ rural transport services to be axed.

Mr Hurlock said: “This could be the kiss of death for older people who use our service.

“A lot of these people are only able to live in their homes because they can rely on us to help maintain their ability to stay there by taking them shopping and to other vital appointments.

“If our services were forced to be axed due to this legislation, it will massively impact on our users, who could be left high and dry.”

Mr Hurlock says the charity is unable to afford the extra expenditure that it would face if the legislation is passed.

He is urging the community to rally behind a national campaign to ensure that the services can continue without extra cost burdens being placed on them.

Mr Hurlock added: “Devon has already lost three important community transport providers. We want to make sure this does not happen to others.

“The DfT is holding a consultation on these proposals during the autumn and I strongly urge people who rely on our services to write to them and emphasise the importance of affordable community transport in their own words.”

A spokesman for the DfT said: “Community transport operators provide vital services that encourages growth and reduces isolation by linking people to existing transport networks, jobs, education, shops and services.

“We are committed to supporting community transport operators and have no intention to end the permits system.

“We will carry out a consultation later this year, which will set out the changes needed to the guidance on the issue and use of permits.”

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