Community car sharing schemes in Lincolnshire restart after coronavirus lockdown
Vital community car schemes in Lincolnshire that see volunteers give lifts to vulnerable and elderly people are restarting.
It emerged in January that the county council’s community car forum was helping thousands of residents make crucial trips to hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and food stores.
The network included at least 17 different schemes and was proving increasingly popular with more and more volunteer drivers offering their services.
But then the pandemic struck, and the majority of the car schemes were put on hold to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Four months on, and with the lockdown measures becoming increasingly relaxed, Lincolnshire County Council says the schemes are beginning to start back up.
Anita Ruffle, head of transport services, said: "There are a number of community car schemes across the county, and they provide a valuable alternative to public transport for the elderly and less mobile.
"Although some schemes continued to operate on a limited basis during the lockdown, most were temporarily suspended. However, many began offering alternative services instead, such as collecting prescriptions or delivering food parcels.
"Now that lockdown is easing, we are seeing more schemes restart, albeit with restrictions in place, like limited passenger numbers. The Government has published guidance to help them operate safely.”
She added: "These schemes rely on volunteers, and we are hopeful that the great community spirit that has been seen over the last few months will lead to more people coming forward and offering their support."
Stamford Community Transport Scheme, run by Christ Church in the town and which also covers Bourne, remains suspended according to its answerphone message.
To find out the details of their nearest scheme, people should call the Lincolnshire Transport Helpline on 0345 456 4474.
In Rutland, the Voluntary Action Rutland Social Car and Community Transport Scheme has continued to operate during lockdown.
Transport manager Jim Freeborough said: “We are operating with reduced volunteer drivers and managing to cover every drive request. Although we have not had the normal amount of drive requests there have been those clients who still have had hospital and medical appointments to attend along with essential shopping.
“In the past month requests have been on the increase as restrictions are being lifted.”
Rutland County Council does not currently run a car share scheme for commuters or residents.
A spokesman said: “Car sharing is to be explored through the implementation of the Local Transport Plan and will be informed by any guidance relating to Covid-19 that is relevant at that time.”
A national car sharing initiative for commuters, called Liftshare, continues to operate with a number of safety guidelines in place, such as passengers sitting away from the drivers, masks being worn and cars being fully cleaned after each trip.