Rickinghall and Botesdale transport group grateful for Suffolk County Council lifeline

Passengers of the Botesdale and Rickinghall Good Neighbours Scheme (BRGNS), outside Rickinghall Village Hall.
Passengers of the Botesdale and Rickinghall Good Neighbours Scheme (BRGNS), outside Rickinghall Village Hall.

A community transport scheme serving Mid Suffolk has strongly expressed its appreciation of Suffolk County Council, after revealing it had unexpectedly been given the resources needed to survive.

Earlier this month, the council announced its new contracts for rural transport providers serving Suffolk, starting from June 16, which cast doubt over the future of many existing community services in the area.

But the Rickinghall and Botesdale Good Neighbour Scheme (RBGNS), a voluntary, not-for-profit group which runs the Wheels Within Wheels service for elderly and disabled people, confirmed this week the county council had agreed to gift a bus to Rickinghall Parish Council, meaning the RBGNS can continue to serve exactly as before in 20 villages.

Gordon Lawrence, who has helped operate the RBGNS for more than 15 years, said he was “surprised and shocked”, and thanked Suffolk County Council for their generosity and understanding during the process.

“I am over the moon,” Mr Lawrence told the Diss Express.

“I want to express my gratitude to the county council. They have obviously sat down and given this a lot of thought.

“To a lot of people, it (Wheels Within Wheels) has made the difference between sitting in four wheels in their house 24 hours a day, and seeing the outside world. It’s the difference between living and not living.

“I have learned so much about the needs of the population. It’s difficult to appreciate how much this means to them.

“That’s why it is so valuable. That’s why I am so grateful to the county council. They have been profoundly understanding.”

The new transport contracts have come about as a result of cost-saving measures, with Suffolk County Council stating the funding would be cut in half, from £1.4 million to £700,000, over a period of five years.

For the Mid Suffolk area, the council named Aspire Together as its chosen tender.

However, the RBGNS says it will carry on independently and aims to maintain its record of approximately 3,000 people movements per year.

The service is now seeking sponsorships to help cover operating and maintenance costs.

To contact the RBGNS, call Mr Lawrence on 01379 897109.