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Electric bus hits the rural roads


By David G Scott


A NEW low-emission vehicle is busily making its way around the county thanks to Caithness Rural Transport (CRT) and various funders.

The minibus is seen as a great asset to the organisation in its quest to help the elderly and disabled with shopping, visiting friends, social functions, medical appointments and a variety of other services where transport is an issue.

Though the vehicle was purchased in May it needed adjustments done and the CRT logo – which resembles a steering wheel – painted on it along with other details by signwriter Nathan Reynolds from Watten. Now completed, the electric bus is ready to roar along the highways and byways of Caithness – albeit with a very muted roar due its eco-friendly credentials as a totally electric vehicle.

From left, Valerie MacKenzie, Alan Farquhar and Coreen Campbell of Caithness Rural Transport with the new eco-friendly bus. Picture: DGS
From left, Valerie MacKenzie, Alan Farquhar and Coreen Campbell of Caithness Rural Transport with the new eco-friendly bus. Picture: DGS

Transport coordinator Coreen Campbell said: "It has been converted so it can take four passengers and a wheelchair and will be a great asset as we have such a wide area to cover. It's all electric and makes no sound whatsoever when it's moving."

The £45,000 Nissan e-NV200 is described by its manufacturers as 100 per cent electric with low operating costs and high efficiency.

CRT also received funding to buy a 16-seat wheelchair-adapted minibus in January with money coming from Highland Leader and Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd for it. The two businesses also contributed to the new electric bus and additional money came in from Tesco Bags of Help and some of CRT's own funds.

The vehicle is charged up with electricity at a service point at Back Bridge Street.
The vehicle is charged up with electricity at a service point at Back Bridge Street.

Coreen said: "We're all about supplying the county with affordable and accessible transport. We've taken clients to weddings, funerals and christenings that they otherwise might have struggled to attend or missed entirely.

"We can also help people get their shopping or someone stuck without transport out in the countryside. There was one young mum in a very remote area around Dorrery, for instance, and we helped her take her child to a playgroup."

The organisation provides a service that is designed for people living in rural areas regardless of age and a town service is open to elderly and disabled people. It charges an annual membership of £13 or £5 for a short-term fee and a mileage charge per person per journey is applied.

Drivers are trained to assist passengers with the steps or wheelchair access to the vehicle and all are Midas (Minibus Driver Awareness Scheme) trained.

Wheelchair-adapted vehicles are based in Wick, Thurso and Dunbeath, as well as 10, 12, 13 and 16-seat minibuses, also adapted, which are available for group hire.

CRT is part of Caithness Voluntary Group, based at Telford House in Williamson Street, Wick, and is always on the lookout for new drivers. It operates a daily service and has a mixture of paid and volunteer drivers.

Anyone interested in helping as a driver or accessing the service should contact Coreen or Valerie on 01955 605588 or email coreen@cvg.org.uk



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