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Disabled transport to grow.

Byline: By SANDY MCKENZIE

A pounds 150,000 investment is being made in the Dial a Ride service in Red car and Cleveland.

The criteria for people to benefit from the services are also being tightened up.

The Dial a Ride service is again being operated directly by Red car and Cleveland Council.

Its membership of around 400 people has been involved in an extensive consultation process on the service's future.

Existing membership has been temporarily extended until the end of May when applications will be assessed against a new criteria.

Any existing members who do not qualify for membership under the new criteria will have their membership continued until March next year.

Councillor Mary Lanigan, the council's Cabinet member for highways, transportation and planning, said: "Currently to become a member of Dial a Ride, applicants must be unable to access public transport due to their disability and or age.

"Simply approving membership on the grounds of age is not appropriate since many elderly people are more than capable of accessing public transport and age should not automatically be a barrier.

"There is a small element of abuse within the scheme with a few members using the service as a cheap taxi, limiting the availability of the service to those members who deserve it."

The council's Cabinet member for health and social well-being Councillor Helen Mc Luckie stressed the value of the scheme and was enthusiastic about a wider public participation in the service.

She said: "Dial a Ride is a vital service for those who need it. It allows people to access activities that they may normally not be able to.

"Since the consultation event, the council has actively encouraged the ongoing participation of Dial a Ride members and voluntary sector representatives."

Plans are already in place to recruit a total of nine drivers and buy three additional vehicles - low-floor, kneeling buses with improved access for disabled passengers.

More information on Dial a Ride in Red car and Cleveland is available by telephoning 01642 444999.
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:May 14, 2008
Words:336
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