The Mearns area around Laurencekirk has been without a Community Minibus since December last year when the old Mercedes minibus decided it had had enough. It broke down and due to its age it proved very difficult to source replacement parts. When the parts were sourced the cost of them proved to be more than the value of the minibus. Mearns Community Transport ceased to function and has been wound up.

A group of volunteers met and formed a steering group to try and determine the feasibility of sourcing a replacement minibus. The volunteers visited successful minibus operations in Aboyne and Portlethen to gain ideas of how they operated, and could see that there were possibilities to operate a new minibus in the Mearns area. Previous users of the old minibus were asked if they would support the use of a new minibus, and the group met with the Patient Participation Group from Laurencekirk Health Centre to assess the need for the provision of transport to take residents from the area to appointments. In all discussions positive support was given.

The specification for a new minibus was investigated to ensure that the vehicle could be used by as wide a selection of drivers as possible. The old minibus was “heavy” and required D1 on the drivers licence. Many young drivers do not have D1 on their licence and could not drive it, hence the decision has been taken to source a suitable vehicle within the weight limitations of their licence, but with a lift to allow wheelchairs access to the vehicle.

A number of major minibus conversion specialists, as well as a main car dealer in the area, have been approached for quotes for a new minibus to the specifications required, and the group now has a realistic vision of the costs of purchasing a new minibus, as well as the associated running costs to provide a minibus service.

Previously the Mearns Community Transport Minibus was only hired out for use by groups, however the new vision is that as well as this type of hire, a patient transport service, utilising the wheelchair facility, be established in the area to take residents to medical appointments. This has proved to be a mixture of successful operations in both Aboyne and Portlethen.

To be able to operate as a charity, application had to be made to OSCR (Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator) to obtain a Charity Number, and this has now been granted (Charity No. SC049513).

Additionally, to ensure suitably qualified drivers are available to drive the minibus, candidates can be taken through the MIDAS training course, to understand the needs and responsibilities of driving a minibus. The course had previously been available through MCT, and will be continued through the new operators.

The name of the new charitable organisation is “Mearns Minibus Link” (MML), and it is hoped to source the minibus within the next few months.

Financing is obviously a critical aspect of the operation and we are grateful that money donated to MCT for the purchase of a new minibus over some time has been promised to MML to progress the purchase of the vehicle. Members of the public have promised donations for the minibus once we are established. Any members of the public, or indeed Companies, are welcome to discuss donations, sponsorship, or assistance in any way to ensure the success of the new operation. To this end a coffee morning is arranged for Saturday 26th October 2019 from 10.00am to 11.30am in the Masonic Hall, Laurencekirk, where all members of the public are invited to attend, and support the re-establishment of a minibus provision in the Mearns area.

To contact MML, please email mearnsminibus@hotmail.com or phone 07867 303065.

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