How to set up a regular minibus service
Here we consider using a minibus to run regular trips for groups of people, generally members of the scheme who book their seats in advance. Most trips tend to be for shopping. These trips are not public bus services and therefore there is less ‘red tape’ involved in setting them up. The trade-off for this is that these trips are unlikely to be included in the Hampshire concessionary travel scheme. If being able to offer free travel to concessionary pass holders is a priority, consider running local bus services; for information on running a local bus service read the ‘How to set up a community bus’ section of this website.
On the legal side, you would be a not-for-profit organisation running a minibus under a Section 19 Standard Permit, which is primarily for group travel. This means that passengers must either be members of the group running the service, people the group is set up to help (such as Age Concern providing transport for older people) or people who live within a defined local community whose public transport needs are not met in other ways. Typically, passengers must register and book in advance. They normally pay for the cost of their trip either directly, by paying a fare, or indirectly through membership or activity fees.
Case Study: Colden Common Community Association Minibus Shopper
The Colden Common Community Association (CCCA) own and operates a minibus that exists primarily to provide transport to not-for-profit groups and organisations within the village. This includes running shopping trips for residents who would otherwise find it difficult doing their weekly shopping in the nearby towns using public transport. The current minibus has 15 seats and a ramp at the rear, together with a passenger lift, if needed, for passengers travelling in their wheelchairs.
Currently it operates two shopping trips a week. On Wednesdays, for a return fare of £2.00, the service operates to a local Tesco with an optional stop in Winchester city centre. On Thursdays it either operates to a local ASDA or Eastleigh town centre/supermarkets for a return fare of £1.50 . The service picks up pre-booked passengers from their home addresses. Drivers assist those who need help to carry shopping to their door.
The shopping trips are driven by one of the volunteer drivers (currently there are nine) on a roster basis. All these drivers are MIDAS trained and have clean DBS checks to work with vulnerable people.
The income currently generated from hires together with the fares from the shopping trips just covers the costs of operating the minibus, with any surplus being put aside towards a replacement minibus. However this surplus falls well short of the depreciation on the minibus and the scheme relies on the availability of grants and the generosity of organisations and individuals to make up the shortfall when a replacement becomes necessary.
When might a regular minibus trip be suitable?
Regular minibus trips are best for groups of people within a local community with similar needs for access to town centres for shops, libraries or social activities, out of town supermarkets, trips to leisure parks or sports centres. You can provide a door to door transport service to those who need it.
A regular minibus trip does not need to go to the same destination every time, and can be changed at short notice without any ‘red tape’, enabling a service to be cancelled if there is not enough demand.
- A minibus. Unless your organisation already owns a minibus, hiring a minibus from another community organisation is a good way to trial a service without huge up-front costs. For information on hiring a minibus read the ‘To hire or to buy a minibus?’ section of this website.
- A bookings co-ordinator, treasurer and minibus drivers. To keep the costs of services down schemes aim to use volunteer drivers whenever possible. If using your own pool of volunteer drivers, a MiDAS driver trainer would be useful too (see below), as driving a minibus is different from driving a car. It is also possible to hire a minibus with a driver (paid or voluntary) depending on the organisation you are hiring from.
A Section 19 Standard Permit, if as a not for profit organisation, your passengers contribute to the cost of a minibus journey in any way. If you are hiring a minibus from a district-wide Community Transport Scheme, you may be covered by their Section 19 Permit. Further detail can be found in the Section 19 Standard Permits for Minibus Operation Factsheet (see below).
What to do next
- Recruit a committee and drivers if using volunteers
- Identify a minibus and establish costs
- See if you need your own Section 19 Standard Permit or, if you are hiring a minibus from a community transport scheme, their permit will cover you
- Establish practical arrangements; user criteria, timetable, fares, membership lists
Where to get further advice
Documents and Web links
Community Transport Factsheets produced by Hampshire County Council:
Community Transport Factsheet 1 326kb: Driver Licensing for Minibuses
Community Transport Factsheet 4 119kb: Section 19 Standard Permits for Minibus Operation
The MiDAS website provides further information on Hampshire’s minibus drivers training scheme.
Other essential reading: