The government is investing £2 million on a fleet on minibuses in a bid to improve transport links in rural areas.
The announcement forms the second round of the community minibus fund and was made yesterday by transport minister Andrew Jones, who was in Market Harborough handing over a minibus to successful bidders Harborough Community Bus.
The Harborough bus is one of 350 minibuses handed out to community groups as part of the first round of funding.
The minibus will be used to to provide transport services for elderly residents, people with disabilities and those who do not have access to commercial bus services.
Jones said: “Community transport is vitally important in helping get people to hospitals, towns and shops, as well as supporting employment and education. It is particularly important in rural and isolated areas, helping thousands of people across the country get on and get around.
“This fund is making an enormous difference to organisations like Harborough Community Bus, enabling them to help people participate in local life.”
The winning organisations across England will each receive a 9- to 16-seater minibus specifically tailored to their requirements, such as disability-friendly access and adapted seating.
Applications for the second round of funding is now open and closes on 2 December. It will be managed by the Community Transport Association, the membership association for community bus operators across the UK.
Community transport association chief executive, Bill Freeman, said: “The first round of funding for community minibuses has strengthened the ability of community transport providers to provide accessible and inclusive transport, improving the everyday lives of people across England.
“This second round provides a welcome boost for communities across England and we look forward to supporting operators who are planning to apply for part of the £2 million funding.”