Relief as Ring and Ride service set to be saved
The Ring and Ride service used by thousands of people across the Black Country is on the brink of being saved.
The service, which transports elderly and disabled people across the region to day centres, churches and hospitals, was put under threat earlier this year after its operator went into administration.
But it has now emerged that transport giant National Express is close to securing an agreement to take on the running of the service.
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) has kept the service running during the last four months while efforts were made to find a company to save it.
National Express is in "final discussions" with TfWM about taking over Ring and Ride, which has more than 12,500 registered users across the region.
The service, which provides door-to-door transport, has six depots across the West Midlands, including in Pool Street, Wolverhampton, and next to the Black Country New Road in Wednesbury.
Accessible Transport Group (ATG) collapsed into administration in March, sparking fears elderly and disabled people reliant on Ring and Ride could be cut off.
Age UK said its loss would have had a "tremendous impact on their lives".
ATG previously provided some home-to-school transport in Sandwell but the council has since switched to other providers.
The company has 700 staff and operating over 600 vehicles at its various transport groups.
Launched in 1983, Ring and Ride runs a fleet of 120 accessible minibuses for customers in Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry.
Christine Szygowski, chief executive of Age UK Dudley, said the loss of Ring and Ride would have had a major impact on those who rely on it.
She said: "It is fantastic. I know it will make the world of difference to people who haven't got transport.
"People who use our Daybreak service come in on Ring and Ride and it really is a lifesaver. It allows people to have mobility and get out of the house. We were all very worried when we heard it might close.
"It may have meant we had to close our day centre if people couldn't find a way to get there. From talking to other charities I know they had the same worries."
West Midlands Accessible Transport Ltd, a subsidiary of National Express, will also be taking over home-to-school transport services in Birmingham.
David Bradford, managing director of National Express West Midlands, said: "I'm very happy to be welcoming ATG employees into the National Express family of businesses.
"We are fully committed to this company - we’ll be investing in the service, including innovative technology for safer journeys, and most importantly, in the people.
Matthew Ingram, from administrators Duff & Phelps, said: “The deal we have negotiated will provide a stable financial platform, ensuring the long-term provision of these vital services across the West Midlands”
“This could not have been achieved without the support of all the employees, Birmingham City Council and Transport for West Midlands, ensuring a continued service whilst the joint administrators explored the viable options following their appointment.
“We are very grateful to them for that support and will now seek to conclude the sale as soon as practicably possible to provide certainty to them and all users of the services they provide."