COMFORTABLE journeys are being enjoyed by Pagham passengers thanks to a new minibus.
The 14-seat vehicle boasts heating, air conditioning and a wheelchair ramp unlike its predecessor – and has already proved a hit with those who rely on its regular trips arranged by Pagham and District Residents’ Association.
Weekly passenger George Marler, 89, of Pagham, said: “It’s a lovely bus. There’s plenty of room on it for my mobility aid and my shopping.
“The volunteers on the minibus always help me on and off with my shopping.”
Mr Marler has been a regular on the Friday trips to Morrisons in Bognor Regis town centre and to Lidl out of town once a month for the past four years.
One of his neighbours, Frances Ireland, 74, said: “I don’t use the minibus for shopping but I have been on the old one for the special outings. I look forward to going on this one to Winchester.
“We are all really grateful for the efforts the volunteers put in to help us. Being able to use the minibus enables people to remain independent for longer.”
They were among some 30 association members at an official unveiling ceremony as part of Sunday’s Pagham on Parade.
The Peugeot bus cost the association just under £39,000 and is the group’s sixth in its 50 year history. The previous vehicle was 11 years old and getting unreliable and expensive to maintain.
It took the association about three years to research a replacement and obtain grants from West Sussex County Council, the Sussex Community Foundation and the West Sussex Travel Society to add to its reserves. A £4,500 bequest from a long- standing user of the service, Eirwen Wood, was also gratefully received and has been acknowledged with a brass plaque in her memory inside the bus.
Ann Rowles, the association’s chairman, said: “I am very proud to be chairman of such a successful group and the team who run all the functions and I hope the association will continue to thrive for many years to come.”
The vehicle was delivered sooner than expected and has been used for two months. It also used for transport by seven other groups such as Pagham Lunch Club and Pagham Chestnuts Club.
In all, the minibus will transport more than 2,500 residents’ members a year and 1,500-plus extra passengers.
It makes 200 shopping trips annually, 50 other journeys for the association and at least 100 for other groups. *