In 1975 I was the representative of the East Sussex Federation Executive Committee on a Rural Transport Group. This group had been set up by the Sussex Rural Community Council who were concerned that our rural bus services had been seriously reduced. The group was investigating the possibility of setting up a community bus service, with volunteer drivers. As a pilot area we chose the Cuckmere Valley and the local WIs helped to carry out a door to door survey which showed considerable support for the idea. As we researched further we discovered, that because of the legislation, any volunteer drivers would require a full Public Service Vehicles Operators Licence, which would be very expensive and we felt unnecessary for driving a minibus.
To move forward with our plans we needed to get the legislation changed, and quickly, so I suggested that the East Sussex Federation Executive committee submit the following resolution for the 1976 AGM:
In view of the difficulties and decreasing facilities of public transport, this meeting urges that the relevant Road Traffic Acts be amended to allow for more flexible transport schemes in rural areas
This resolution was selected and appeared on the AGM agenda and I was asked to propose it, quite a task for a relatively young member. It passed with a large majority and then came the 'follow up work'. In those days NFWI did not use the word 'campaigns', but worked on a mandate by requesting a meeting with the relevant Government department. I was invited to join the NFWI Delegation that went to see the Minister of Transport: the NFWI Chair, the Chair of the NFWI Public Affairs subcommittee, and me. The meeting was held on the 14th floor at the Department of Transport, then in a tower block in Marsham Street (now demolished). I remember the magnificent view looking down on Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.
The Minister saw us, accompanied by his civil servants, and agreed that there was a need for the sort of changes we were asking for. The Transport Act of 1980 incorporated these changes and now volunteer drivers of Community minibuses only needed to conform to the new Community Bus Regulations; drivers must be over 21 and have a full driving licence.
Helped by these changes, the Cuckmere Community Bus was established as one of the first in the country. It now operates a fleet of 16-seat modern fully accessible low floor minibuses on 14 local bus services serving many local communities in East Sussex, and is staffed by around 60 volunteers.
I feel specially privileged to have seen a WI Resolution from its beginning to satisfactory completion. It also set me on the next stage of my WI 'career' when I was appointed to NFWI's public affairs subcommittee and subsequently to the NFWI Board of Trustees.
NFWI delegation to see the Minister of Transport 1976
Left to right: Virginia Royds, secretary of the Public Affairs subcommittee, Patricia Batty Shaw (NFWI Chair), Anne Stamper and Kay Young (Chair of NFWI Public Affairs subcommittee)
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