THE WEST Midlands has been handed funds for a new scheme that tackles loneliness on public transport.
The Let’s Chat initiative, over seen by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), will see four dedicated buses going into communities to act as a focal point for conversations, advice and assistance.
The scheme will also look to open up a space at bus stations including Coventry for people to meet and offer a door-to-door service for people where the lack of transport is a barrier to social contact.
The 12-month long pilot scheme has been awarded £460,000 from the Department for Transport.
TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), has developed the scheme with support from Walsall Community Transport, Shencare and Community Transport (group) and is looking to work with further organisations across the region.
The bid was submitted to Government following a successful trial on a Let’s Chat bus in Walsall which saw meaningful contact with more than 900 people in six months.
Councillor Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio holder for transport, said: “This project demonstrates how good public transport is not just about getting people to and from work, but can also offer so much more, including a way out of isolation and loneliness.
“This project has been designed to remove some of the barriers which prevent people seeking help and support.
“We know the pandemic has had a huge impact on people’s mental health and therefore we are keen to get the Let’s Chat buses and bus station spaces up and running as soon as possible and start helping people.”