A project to explore new ways of providing rural communities with more effective, specialist transport links is to be undertaken in Saddleworth, Oldham.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and Oldham Council will work together on the scheme after securing an £81,000 grant from the government’s Total Transport Pilot Fund.

The ‘Oldham Shared Transport’ project will explore how existing bus and minibus services can be brought together to deliver more joined-up and efficient travel options in rural communities, which are often cut adrift from more concentrated transport services in busy town and city centres.

TfGM’s demand-responsive services, including Local Link and Ring & Ride, and Oldham Council’s Social Services, special education and non-emergency patients’ transport services, will all form part of the pilot.

If successful, the approach could be rolled out to benefit other areas of Greater Manchester.

Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of the TfGM Committee, said: “Saddleworth has a population of around 25,000 people but is a predominantly rural area, and its geography is what makes providing effective specialist transport links a particular challenge. This is an issue that has become even more apparent in recent years as local authority budget cuts have started to bite, specialist services have become more disparate and diluted, and more and more people have started to fall through the gaps as a result.We hope this pilot will prove invaluable for some of the most vulnerable members of our community by addressing the piecemeal way that specialist transport services have evolved in our health and local authorities sectors.”

Councillor Dave Hibbert, Oldham Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Planning and Highways, said: “At a time when local government funding has seen huge cuts, it is positive to see two local organisations working together co-operatively to provide more effective transport solutions. This new approach is showing proactive, forward thinking to improving and strengthening transport links between Saddleworth, a rural area of the borough, and our more urban parts.

“It is also vital that we strive to provide the best possible connections within the villages of Saddleworth when budgets are reducing.”

More information on public transport across Greater Manchester is available at www.tfgm.com.

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