The Downland HandeBus goes electric
The Downland Volunteer Group (DVG) is pleased to announce the launch of our new 100% electric fully accessible HandeBus.
To celebrate this significant achievement in being one of the first electric minibus for community transport in West Berkshire, and one of a handful across the UK, we have renamed our Handybus to HandeBus – highlighting it’s electric whilst remaining ‘handy’ for those that use it.
The HandeBus offers a bespoke service to residents in the Downland villages, through the help of volunteer drivers. Passengers contact us and are collected from their homes and driven to the shops, appointments, or other venues. Our friendly drivers will help load shopping on and off the vehicle and, if required, carry shopping to your front door.
The HandeBus is ideal for passengers with mobility issues as it is equipped with easy access side steps, comfortable seats, air conditioning in the summer, and heating in the winter. In addition, the Handebus can safely carry up to two wheelchair users with their carers as it is fitted with a hydraulic tail lift.
Regular users of the service can get to know each other as it’s an opportunity to meet and chat with friends and neighbours. Many friendships have been formed helping to reduce isolation and loneliness.
The Handebus would not have been possible without funding from West Berkshire Council who awarded us £50,000 through the Community Transport Capital Grant Fund, which we applied for back in mid-2023. We have also received other donations from The Greenham Trust, The Englefield Trust, Miss Lawrence Trust in Kintbury, and other private donations.
Laura Farris,Member of Parliament for Newbury said "This is an excellent community initiative and I was delighted to meet with members of the Downland Volunteer Group ahead of the HandeBus launch. The HandeBus will provide essential support to residents in the Downland villages, fostering community cohesion whilst promoting greener transport options and I am very proud of all the local volunteers who have made this possible.
Denise Gaines, Executive Member for Highways, Housing and Sustainable Travel at West Berkshire Council, said: “It is heartening to see that a local community group is taking such bold steps to improve accessibility for those with mobility difficulties who may struggle to get out and about to appointments or the shops. This Handebus will help support our vulnerable residents to maintain their independence, whilst also using a vehicle that helps the Council to tackle the climate and ecological emergency.”
Our original Handybus did not offer wheelchair access. We worked with GM Coachworks, a specialist company that builds bespoke minibuses for local authorities, schools and other organisations to create a 12-seater minibus plus driver. In addition, they fitted a hydraulic tail lift enabling us to carry two wheelchair users plus their carers. This ensures that travel in this purpose-built vehicle is safe and comfortable for all users.
Charging the vehicle is by a three phase 11kW charging unit located at the Chieveley Surgery and installed by Hannington and Green, a locally based electrical company. The vehicle graphics were designed by Butler Signs also based in Newbury.
For those wishing to use the HandeBus, the Downland Volunteer Group can be contacted on: 07713 813 523, email: email@example.com, or via our website: www.downlandvolgroup.org .
Can you help us? Become a volunteer! As a volunteer organisation we require volunteer drivers. If you have a clean driving licence with a D1 entitlement category included and would like to help residents in the Downland villages, even if it’s just a few hours a month, please do contact us on: 07713 813 523. A vehicle without a driver is of very little use, so if can help please call us.
The Handybus service started in Newbury in the 1980’s with most areas in West Berkshire having a Handybus service over the last 25 years. Unlike a regular bus service , the HandeBus (as we now refer to it as it is an electrical vehicle) is like a taxi service taking passengers to and from their destination with help from the driver, if required. The HandeBus can carry either 12 passengers or 2 wheelchairs plus 2 carers (plus the driver).
The Downland Volunteer Group (DVG) started in 1986 to help residents in the Downland villages to attend their medical appointments. By using volunteer drivers that would collect and return them from surgeries, local hospitals, and dentists. The DVG took over the Handybus operation from West Berkshire Council in 2018 and thanks to their support and other sponsors we have been able to upgrade the service with an environmentally friendly electric vehicle.