1 Introduction

1 Introduction


1.1 This report investigates the social and economic benefits of community transport in Scotland. Community Transport (CT) provides a critical role in meeting the transport needs of a wide range of groups where conventional transport fails to do so. This may be because there is not a commercial case (even where subsidised) for running a traditional transport service or where the needs of users are such that they cannot easily access conventional transport services. CT operators conduct invaluable work in this area by filling gaps where other public transport services are not possible or appropriate for users.

1.2 Recognising the above issues, and as a result of the lobbying of a number of organisations, the Scottish Parliament Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee launched an inquiry into CT provision in Scotland in February 2013. A key issue highlighted by the Committee's report, and also in other subsequent literature reviews, was the lack of evidence on the social and economic benefits of CT in Scotland. The most recent report on community transport in Scotland was commissioned by HITRANS and published in 2011.

1.3 This lack of evidence on the benefits of CT was flagged up in the Parliament's final report on community transport, which was published in July 2013. This report identified the lack of information on community transport provision and needs as being a key challenge. Information gaps identified included the lack of baseline data on CT, making it difficult to plan for future transport needs.

Defining Community Transport

1.4 The Community Transport Association (CTA) defines CT as:

"a wide range of transport solutions usually developed to cover a specifically identified transport need, typically run by the voluntary sector for the local community on a not for profit basis" (CTA, 2012).

1.5 Organisations providing CT are varied in both scale and scope. For some, the provision of CT is their only activity, whilst for others, CT is just one part of a much wider remit. In terms of scale, CT providers range from small to large and from those that rely entirely on volunteers to those with large numbers of staff. The CTA divides services provided by CT organisations into the following categories (CTA, 2012):

  • Voluntary Car Schemes - a demand responsive service in which volunteers drive their own vehicles in return for mileage expenses.
  • Group travel services and door-to-door dial-a-ride services for individuals - CT organisations which provide minibuses to local groups and/or use them to provide transport for their members/people they are aiming to help.
  • Wheels to Work - a CT organisation that provides individuals with leased vehicles (such as mopeds or bicycles) or assists them with their transport needs by other means.
  • Contracted 'assisted travel' services - including home-to-school, non-emergency patient and/or social services day care transport which is operated on a not for profit basis.
  • Demand-responsive or fixed-route transport services - which operate where commercial bus routes, even when subsidised, are not viable.

This Research Study

1.6 The key purpose of this study is to address the gaps in available data on the benefits of community transport. This research project is designed to collect information on the social, economic and health impacts of CT with the aim of identifying the ongoing benefits of CT.

1.7 In particular, it is important from a funding perspective to understand who is using CT and for what purpose. In addition, in the currently constrained financial climate, it is necessary for all policy areas / sectors to clearly demonstrate the contribution they are making to the Scottish Government's Purpose[1], providing an evidence-based case for funding prioritisation. In the absence of robust data and an understanding of the benefits of CT, it is difficult to make the case for maintained or additional funding for this essential form of transport provision.

1.8 This study addresses these evidence gaps through the development of a strategy to identify the social, economic and health benefits of CT and the identification and collection of the information required to measure each of the different benefits. Having developed this baseline, we sought to address the gaps in existing data sources through the identification and selection of a series of case studies designed to cover the breadth of provision across the country. The main advantage of this approach is that it provided a pan-Scotland view, providing an understanding of the benefits of CT in different geographic and urban-rural classifications.

1.9 The outcomes of this research will allow Transport Scotland to more fully understand the benefits of CT and how the costs of CT operation compare with the equivalent costs of mainstream public transport.