Community transport provides a vital service in the rural Scottish Borders. It supports people who have a wide range of transport or mobility difficulties to access medical and social services, and also provides affordable transport for voluntary organisations. It is principally provided by BAVS, the Bridge and Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), with funding from their Thrift Shops, Scottish Borders Council (SBC), the Scottish Government (SG), Trusts & Foundations.
BAVS and the Bridge have their own minibuses, MPVs and cars, mostly driven by volunteers, while RVS provides a transport service by volunteers using their own cars.
In 2021 a consultation project (What Wheely Matters) recommended a more integrated approach, and the merger of BAVS’ and The Bridge’s services to form Borders Wheels will take this forward by creating a Borders-wide service. This will bring improvements in accessibility, quality and sustainability, and provide a base from which the potential of community transport in the Borders can be fully realised.
It is proposed that the merger will be achieved through the transfer of Berwickshire Wheels to The Bridge. The Bridge has recently divested its community development role to focus on its three Wheels community transport projects: it is planned to change its name to Borders Wheels and adopt a new constitution. Three BAVS directors and three of the current Bridge directors will form the initial board, and further directors will be recruited.
A consultant, David Hunter, has assisted the BAVS and Bridge boards with the merger process and will continue to provide support for the Borders Wheels board and staff as they integrate the two services while ensuring continuity for existing customers (500 individuals and 100 voluntary organisations). A longterm strategic plan will be developed in partnership with funders and other providers, potentially involving expansion into new areas of health, social care and education delivery.
The overall goal is that Scottish Borders individuals and communities will have better quality and more comprehensive community transport services that are more effective in overcoming transport barriers to accessing health provision, social care, community activities & social networks.