A CHARITY bus service providing a lifeline to people on Canvey is expanding due to high demand.
Wyvern Community Transport runs the dial-a-ride service across Canvey two days a week.
The Canvey Shopper serves residents on a Wednesday and Thursday, but transport manager Andrew Woodley says he hopes to add another service on Fridays.
Mr Woodley said: “I believe part of the reason demand has grown is to do with money and with changes in bus services.
“Certainly, the age of the population on Canvey has gone up and people are finding it more difficult to get out and about.
“Our drivers help with passengers’ shopping and carrying bags.
“They are getting a special type of service and a more personalised one.”
Wyvern Community Transport runs several routes across south Essex, but moved on to Canvey in 2008 after changes to bus services.
Passenger journeys across all routes have increased from about 12,000 a year to 30,000 a year.
The service now boasts eight vehicles, three full-time drivers, a part-time driver and 19 volunteers.
Established by the Rayleigh and Rochford Voluntary Services in 2003, it also runs a Hadleigh Shopper service on Mondays and Thursdays to Morrisons on Canvey.
Mr Woodley added: “On our Canvey route, there are normally 15 to 20 passenger journeys a day and our Hadleigh service averages about 125 journeys a month.
“Looking to the future, I would like to introduce a Friday service for Canvey as well.
“As long as demand is there and we have the vehicles it could work.”
The service is not just open to elderly or disabled residents, anyone on the island can use it.
Mr Woodley said he valued the support of his volunteers.
He said: “We couldn’t do it without our drivers and we have put our volunteers up for awards at tonight’s Rayleigh and Rochford Voluntary Services awards.”
PASSENGERS say the community bus is a vital service for Canvey.
Jean Ball, of Delfzul Road, uses the bus to go to lunches and meet friends.
Mrs Ball, 85, said: “I’m an amputee and I have trouble with my hips getting in and out of cars.
“The bus comes and they put down the ramp for me and take me to and from my luncheon club. When I’ve had to call to cancel, they ask if there is anything else they can do. They are so helpful. I’m always telling everyone about it. I see people using taxis and ask ‘why aren’t you using the transport?’ “The people are ever so kind, and when I get home, they watch me to my door and help me over the kerb. They are so helpful.”
Fellow passenger Florence Brown, 89, of Gainsborough Avenue, Canvey, agreed.
She said: “They are very good, I use it to do my shopping and it is such a cost saving. I’ve used it since last year and I would recommend it to anybody, I tell anyone who is interested. They are really good and, to be honest, I don’t know what I would do without them.”
The scheme is free to join, with members registering for the scheme each year. Journeys typically cost a £3 flat fare for single or return across Canvey Island. To find out more, call 01268 754936.