Minibus drivers could be put off the road

Not-for-profit organisations are concerned their services could be decimated by new minibus licensing laws
Not-for-profit organisations are concerned their services could be decimated by new minibus licensing laws

Upper Bann MP David Simpson has called for an urgent meeting with the Department of Infrastructure to discuss the proposed changes to driving laws for community transport drivers.

The proposed changes that are out for consultation could force mini bus drivers to pass a specialised driving test costing up to £1,000 to complete.

Those who drive mini bus type vehicles have been able to transport up to 16 people on the standard UK License.

But the change could mean many of those currently driving minibuses for community, church, charity and youth groups would no longer be able to do so without passing the new test.

Mr Simpson said “I am astounded and disappointed that this has once again been brought forward following the widespread panic of community groups, charities and churches just a few months ago.

“The impact of these changes are set to hit the most vulnerable and isolated people in our society.

“Charity groups, churches and community groups who offer transport services could potentially all be affected.

“In June of this year we faced huge disruption with disabled and vulnerable people left without transport for a whole weekend before the decision was reversed.

“I received numerous calls from my constituents who had been left disappointed and with only a few hours’ notice that their weekly trip out was to be cancelled.

“This service is a lifeline to so many and we must do all we can to protect it and where possible enhance the provision.

“I would urge all churches, community groups and charity organisations that provide transport services to respond to the consultation which is due to close on November 17th.”

A public meeting of community transport providers and service users is being held in the Lisburn Civic Centre today (Tuesday) at 10.30am, amid fears the changes could be signed off by Department in the absence of a minister.