Call for more volunteer drivers for Bognor service

More drivers are needed as a Bognor Regis-based community transport service expands.

Sammy Community Transport is moving towards its 40th year covering an area which includes almost all the Chichester district as well as its traditional heartland around Bognor.

This expansion has been achieved through the absorption of Chichester Community Transport and Dial A Ride.

But the extra workload has increased Sammy’s requirement for those who want to sit behind the steering wheels.

Manager Mike Collins said: “We now have ten vehicles, including seven minibuses, and we have 60 volunteer drivers, including the 30 who use their own cars to transport people to and from medical appointments.

“That is the maximum number. I would love to have it available at this time of year. But so many people want to have time off to be with their families or to go on holiday.

“Because they are volunteers, the drivers can pick and choose when they want to work for us to fit in with their lives.

“What it means, though, is that we can’t help as many people as we would like. They won’t come back if we can not guarantee them a service.

“They can’t take a gamble on a hospital appointment. We are filling the gaps left by the withdrawal of bus routes.

“There’s a lot we can do but we need more drivers for us to be able to do what we want.”

Mr Collins made his plea as Sammy held its annual meeting at the Rowland Rank Centre in Aldwick.

Beneficial

Sammy’s chairman, Roger Turner, told the meeting: “Big is not always beautiful but worked properly can sometimes be beneficial.

“With the Chichester buses added to our fleet and, with the Chichester drivers, we hope to expand our services for the peoples of both towns and generate extra revenues.

“In addition, a larger company is certainly an advantage in making some of the funding applications.”

He said it was proposed to launch a Dial A Ride service in Bognor to make that in Chichester.

Sammy provides transport to take disadvantaged and isolated members of the community to medical appointments as well as social occasions.

It is hoped the coming year will see a move to premises in the Bognor area where the offices and vehicles can be combined. This is not possible at the current offices in a solicitors’ premises in York Road.

Volunteers

MP Nick Gibb, who is the service’s patron, praised its volunteers.

He said: “Sammy Transport provides an important service to those isolated in their communities or physically unable to leave their homes.

“The volunteers and staff have had a challenging year and have coped admirably with a number of important changes, including the absorption of Chichester Community Transport and further expanding Sammy’s reach in the community.”

The service had another tough year, reported treasurer Peter Stemp with spending slightly exceeded income in the year to the end of March.

“It is a sign of the times I fear that more and more charities an ever-decreasing pot of gold,” he said.

“In the new financial year it will be difficult and the balance between keeping Sammy solvent and charging the lowest we can to our clients, some of whom are on even tighter budgets, is a very tortuous path.”