Wimmera community bus to hit the road again after 'considerable interest'

RETURNING SOON: The Wimmera Southern Mallee Community Transport Service will be hitting the road on May 19. Photo: Samantha Camarri.
RETURNING SOON: The Wimmera Southern Mallee Community Transport Service will be hitting the road on May 19. Photo: Samantha Camarri.

The Wimmera Southern Mallee Community Transport Service will make its much-awaited return on May 19, giving people without licences or require transport assistance the opportunity to travel.

Starting in 2017, the volunteer-run service transports Wimmera residents from Kaniva, Nhill, Dimboola and Pimpino to essential services in Horsham.

The Victorian Government committed $125,000 to the program in 2017, which it developed with Horsham's Centre for Participation.

The centre said "considerable interest" from volunteers and passengers to resume the weekly community bus resulted in the recommencement of the service.

"In late March we held a bus driving refresher training session and volunteer catch-up in Kaniva, with seven volunteers attending including one new volunteer," the centre confirmed.

"All volunteers completed their bus driving assessments, and we also worked through how the bus service will operate in the future in response to COVID.

"We're looking forward to serving our community again through the bus service, with people who have used it in the past commenting that the trips are very enjoyable and the volunteers are extremely helpful and polite."

Over the past couple of weeks, past passengers have been contacted and provided information about the resumption of the service.

Charlie Ferrier, who has spent time as a volunteer driver, said the role was rewarding and allowed countless residents to build friendships.

"I have met a lot of people whilst doing this job that I hadn't met before which is unusual in a small town," he said in a 2019 interview.

"A lot of the older people don't get out that often and this is the only time you get to see them sometimes.

"They will get on, and they might be solo or not know anyone, but by the time they get of the bus they know all about everyone - they make friends, which is really good from that point of view."

The Wimmera Southern Mallee Community Transport Service seeks to reduce the level of transport disadvantage within the Wimmera region.

The community bus will operate each Wednesday, commencing pick-ups from Kaniva at 8.45am and arriving in Horsham at 10.30am, with stops at Nhill, Dimboola and Pimpinio along the way.

For the return journey, the bus commences pick-ups from Horsham at 2.30pm before stopping at Nhill, Dimboola and Pimpinio on its way back to Kaniva.

Residents can arrange bookings by phoning: 1800 952 211. Please note that passenger numbers remain limited under the current COVIDSafe passenger transport restrictions.

To volunteer, contact the Centre for Participation on: 5382 5607.