Since the start of 2022, you may have spotted new minibuses weaving through Eynsham hourly to serve the previously terminated 411 and 418 bus routes. Even better, you may have used them. This bus service is delivered by First and Last Mile (FLM), a community enterprise run by volunteers to reduce isolation in rural areas and connect villages to larger towns and transport hubs.
FLM is one of the impressive local projects to have been awarded a grant from the Parish Council in the latest round of applications. Their £500 grant will go towards the running costs of the service and, hopefully, help it become sustainable. The service has been supported by Stagecoach and Oxfordshire County Council. The project’s directors are hoping to secure more financial assistance from other local communities that are being served by the new buses too, such as Standlake and Stanton Harcourt.
The operation is wholly run by volunteers. David Miles, one of the three Directors, estimates that it required 15,000 unpaid hours to get the service up and running in January this year. He welcomes the strong local support in Eynsham and hopes the buses will bring various benefits to the village.
“The 411 and 418 routes provide the provide feeder services from the villages into Eynsham to connect with the S1 to Witney and Oxford. It’s really handy for the people who rely on these connections,” he says. “We hope the buses will help to reduce traffic congestion in Eynsham while also supporting local businesses by making it easier for people to travel locally.”
Unfortunately, the service is already facing a shortage of drivers as interest rises. He says: “we know the demand is there and that these services are vitally important to the communities they serve, but without more drivers I am not sure how we can sustain it.”
For those who are already driving the minibuses, the experience is proving to be rewarding. Les and Andy Swarbrick, who have volunteered for other community projects in the village, report that “nothing we have been involved with to date has provided us with the satisfaction of driving this bus.” The new job has also earned them the respect of their five-year-old grandson; “he cannot wait to be a passenger!” You can read more from Les and Andy on their experiences via the document at the bottom of the webpage.
If you have a current D1 license and would be available to drive for one half-day a week, once a fortnight, please get in touch with David and his team on 07584 927050 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Shifts are flexible and full training will be provided for all volunteers.
The Parish Council is thrilled to be able to support the running costs of such a worthwhile community enterprise. By providing better public transport connections to rural villages, we can hopefully reduce isolation in our rural communities and support older people to remain independent and active for longer.
Read more about First and Last Mile on their website.
Do you want to read about more of our successful grant applicants? Keep an eye on the website for our monthly articles on these great local projects and groups.