How to set up a community bus service

What is a community bus service?

A community bus service is a local bus service you run with a minibus.

  • A not-for-profit village bus service
  • Runs under a Section 22 Community Bus Permit
  • The timetable must be registered with the Traffic Commissioner
  • You can charge fares and accept concessionary bus passes
  • Passengers do not need to book in advance to use the service

To see the difference between running a minibus under a Section 22 Community Bus Permit and the Section 19 Standard Permit for pre-booked group travel see our Factsheets.

When is a community bus service suitable?
  • Your service will be available to everyone (local people, walkers, tourists)
  • Passengers do not need to pre-book their journey
  • You want to offer free travel to people with concessionary passes
  • You will have enough passengers to make the journey worthwhile. If you are replacing a commercial bus service, find out how many passengers used it

If you only want to provide transport for registered passengers in your community, see how to set up a regular minibus service.

Resources
  • A minibus (bought or hired) – see how to buy or hire a minibus
  • Drivers (paid/voluntary) – a pool of volunteer drivers will make your service more cost-effective
  • A treasurer
  • Someone to decide routes and organise the driver rota
  • If you have a pool of drivers, you should consider training one member as a MiDAS Driver Assessor/Trainer
Typical costs

General costs

  • Buying or hiring a minibus
  • Insurance
  • Fuel (if not included in the hire charge)
  • Registration costs for the services you will run
  • Promotion
  • Administration

Buying your own minibus

  • MOT
  • Insurance
  • Road tax
  • Regular safety inspections
  • Servicing and repairs
  • Future replacement costs

Sources of revenue

  • Fares
  • Concessionary fare reimbursement
  • Reclaiming tax on fuel through the Bus Service Operator's Grant

Additional sources of revenue

  • Running one-off, pre-booked trips (e.g. to the seaside or cinema)
  • Hiring the minibus to other local groups
Next steps
  • Identify potential demand (number of people, journeys needed)
  • Calculate likely costs, budget and funding sources
  • Draw up and agree timetable and route
  • Register the timetable with the Traffic Commissioner
  • Buy or hire a minibus
  • Recruit drivers (paid or volunteers)
  • Trial the service
  • Monitor the route, timetable, passenger numbers
Further advice

Hampshire County Council

Hampshire County Council Community Transport Team
Economy, Transport and Environment Department

Phone: 01962 846785
Email: community.transport@hants.gov.uk

Further reading

Case studies
Meon Valley

This scheme was set up in 1986 by the parishes of West Meon, Warnford, Droxford and Soberton. The villages wanted to provide a weekly service to Fareham.

A minibus was hired from a local charity and a service to Fareham was run once a week. As the number of passengers increased, the scheme ran twice a week and raised enough funds to buy its own bus.

Operations have increased to four days a week, with services to Fareham, Waterlooville and Winchester. These services take enough fares to cover operating costs and contribute towards the cost of a replacement minibus. This is achieved by:

  • claiming back some of the tax paid on fuel (Bus Service Operator’s Grant)
  • participating in the concessionary fares scheme
  • receiving reimbursement from the County Council for providing free travel

The service relies on grants from the County Council and City Council to cover any shortfall in replacing the minibus.

Whitchurch

This Community Bus has been running since the end of 2000 and is operated by Basingstoke Community Transport on behalf of Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council.

The service runs twice a week with volunteer drivers collecting residents from rural settlements around Whitchurch and bringing them to the town centre. In some areas it operates a door to door service. There are eight journeys a day from the outer villages, allowing for different return times. Anyone can travel, whether paying a fare or using a concessionary pass.

The service started under section 19 permit with members booking before they travelled. It now operates under a section 22 permit, so anyone can use the services. The service receives a small, ongoing subsidy from the Borough Council, enabling fares to be kept relatively low.

With the Whitchurch Community Bus, we saw the opportunity to emphasise the 'community' aspect by providing local transport for local people to local facilities. The villages to the town centre may not be far in miles, but without the Community Bus, for some residents, it's a long way away. There are those elderly residents who are close to main transport links but can't reach them. The Community Bus provides the door to door solution to enable more freedom for those otherwise not able to easily get out.

Ian Robertson, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council

Broughton and Mottisfont

This Community Bus was set up in 1980. The scheme owns a minibus, which is replaced every seven years. Bus services run four days a week. The service hires the minibus to local groups to cover its day to day operating costs, allowing the service to operate without subsidy. The scheme is also able to build up funds towards a replacement bus. The balance of the money has come from grants from Hampshire County Council and Test Valley Borough Council, when the bus is due for replacement.