The operators of an Aberdeenshire community bus have urged groups to get on board with plans to help protect its future.
The Mearns Community Transport minibus, which is full accessible, has been available for hire for all local community groups and organisations since 2006.
In the past, the vehicle had been frequently booked for day trips, camping weekends and more by Scouts, Brownies, pensioner groups, schools and other users.
But in recent years demand for the minibus, which is based at the Mearns Community Campus in Laurencekirk, has dropped – and now Mearns Community Transport fears that without more people taking advantage of it, operating the bus will no longer be sustainable.
The bus currently receives a grant from Aberdeenshire Council to cover just under 50% of the running costs, but Louise Cairney, project administrator for Mearns Community Transport, said that unless hires increase over the rest of the year there is a risk the grant could be in jeopardy, and the bus could be lost.
Mrs Cairney said this would be a “devastating situation” for groups who regularly use the bus, including the Laurencekirk Lunch Club which uses the bus every week to transport pensioners to a lunch club held at the town’s primary school.
She said: “The bus is used by local groups like our lunch club, and scouts, brownies and school clubs have used it in the past, but what we’ve found is that the number of hires has gone down quite considerably over the last couple of years.
“We’re finding that we’re not having enough hires to generate the money we need to actually run the bus, so we really want to up the profile of it and let people know that it’s there for them – and if they need a bus, they should use ours.
“IF we don’t get enough hires, then at the end of the day the council can only do so much with regards to how much funding they can offer us, so if it’s not viable anymore, then it could be the end for us – and that would be terrible for the people that rely on it.”
An accordion concert to raise funds for the minibus will be held on June 1 from 7pm at Dickson Hall in Laurencekirk, and tickets are available now from Mearns Community Transport at 44 High Street, Laurencekirk.
If you would like to book the minibus, call Mrs Cairney on 01561 377000.