The campaign to replace the old Mearns Community Transport minibus has made tremendous progress over the last year. The new group, Mearns Minibus Link, was set up just over a year ago by volunteers from the old group and set about gathering the necessary funding to source a replacement minibus.

We are now able to report that a new minibus was ordered from Minibus Options at the end of February when we were in a position, financially, to order a minibus and have funds available for the running expenses for at least the first year of operation. Having paid the money for the base vehicle, the minibus is actually in the specialist conversion company’s factory ready for conversion.

A huge thank you is due to all of the individuals and organisations who have so generously donated money to the campaign, with the result that we were able to place the order for the minibus. Amongst the contributors have been; Robertson Trust, National Lottery Community Fund, Paths For All, Aberdeenshire Council, NHS Grampian, Scotmid, Glaxo,Tullo Community Fund, Basin City Bootstompers, and many other individuals. Thank you very much everyone.

The group have also arranged fundraising activities including a very successful coffee morning and a fiddle and accordion concert. A ceilidh was arranged in the Dickson Hall for Saturday 4th April, but that obviously had to be postponed due to the current government guidance. We plan to continue these fundraising activities in the future to ensure sufficient income is generated to provide the range of services we are planning, and the replacement of the minibus in the future.

The new minibus is a Renault Master, with 14 seats, including the driver. It will have a tail lift for wheelchair access, and some of the seats will be removable for 2 wheelchairs to be securely installed. All of the seats will have head restraints with integral grab handles to assist those who may be unsteady on their feet whilst moving about in the minibus. Main access will be by the side door which will have drop down steps and handrails either side.

It is hoped that the previous users of the old minibus will resume their support of the new minibus and utilise it in their activities, and it is hoped that a wider range of user groups will see the minibus as an asset in carrying out their activities, and make use of it also.

One area where we hope to be of assistance is in working with the medical centre in Laurencekirk to assist in the transport of less able people to attend clinics and appointments at the centre. We have already had discussions with the Patient Participation Group regarding this arrangement and discussions will be ongoing to try and implement this when the minibus comes on service.

Unfortunately, due to the current situation within the country, on checking with the supplier this week, understandably, the factory has had to close due to lack of components for the conversion. The original delivery date was to be June, however the company have now said that there is likely to be a 3 month delay, assuming a start in May, and all of the components necessary being readily available.

This delay is very unfortunate, but understandable, under the circumstances. Nevertheless we are looking forward to a community minibus returning to the Mearns in the near future and being able to support all of the communities in the surrounding area from Edzell Woods and St Cyrus to Catterline, Drumlithie and Auchenblae.

One day in the future we shall get to the other side of Covid 19 and be able to resume our normal activities and you will see, and hopefully utilise, the services of the Mearns Minibus Link minibus transporting people around the Mearns and further afield. Thanks to everyone for your valuable support.

Allan Smith

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