Keeping West Somerset connected during crisis

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Vulnerable residents in West Somerset have been offered a lifeline during the pandemic thanks to the partnership of transport charity ATWEST and Somerset County Council.  

Accessible Transport West Somerset (ATWEST) provides fully accessible transport to local residents and despite the challenges of Covid it has been keeping communities connected with the support of the Council.  

These include the regular 198 service between Minehead, Timberscombe and Dulverton, as well the 10 service between  Minehead and Porlock Weir And the County Council-funded Slinky buses are continuing to get rurally isolated people out and about.

These services have been:  

Getting people to vital vaccination slots

Taking vulnerable pupils and children of key workers to school since the first lockdown

To keep users safe,  dedicated staff at ATWEST have stuck to a rigorous cleaning regime after each journey to ensure the safety of passengers.  

But some services haven’t been able to continue due to risks to vulnerable residents and ATWEST has stayed in touch by fundraising to post newsletters to those affected to let them know they might be out of sight – but they’re not out of mind.  

“The work of ATWEST has been phenomenal over the last year – such dedication and care for their local communities is truly inspiring,” said Cllr John Woodman, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport.

“Keeping services going is vital for those residents who are isolated and don’t have access to their own transport and we’re proud to support ATWEST in ensuring this happens.”  

Shopping Buses, Travel Club and care home journeys are set to start gradually over the spring and this is being communicated to residents. The charity is also fundraising to support the provision of transport with fewer fares due to social distancing and the need for cleaning materials.  

ATWEST Project Officer Barbara Middleton has been stuck in Western Australia since the pandemic hit but it hasn’t stopped her from supporting her hard-working colleagues in West Somerset to keep things going.  

“Somerset County Council worked closely with ATWEST to keep our area going. I’m amazed and proud of what’s been achieved – it’s thanks the hard work of everyone involved.

“Being away hasn’t stopped me fundraising. The National Lottery helped us to keep our buses Covid-safe, to send newsletters to hundreds of isolated passengers to keep in touch, and now we look forward to restarting their much-loved community shopping and other services.”  

Your can find out more about ATWEST here: Accessible Transport West Somerset (atwest.org.uk)