Green light is given for vital new buses

Rio Tinto's Joanne Hannay (right) hands the keys to one of the new buses to Lynn McIntosh from WATBus.

Rio Tinto's Joanne Hannay (right) hands the keys to one of the new buses to Lynn McIntosh from WATBus.

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A community transport operator has added three new buses to its fleet thanks to a £60,000 donation.

Bedlington-based charity WATBus operates a fleet of minibuses providing a vital service to communities across the north east.

The donation from Rio Tinto’s Legacy Fund has funded one bnew bus, two reconditioned buses, and driver uniforms.

Last year, WATBus clocked up over 116,000 miles transporting more than 30,000 passengers.

The donation has also paid for new IT equipment to be operated by the 28-strong army of volunteers who are at the heart of WATBus.

Lynn McIntosh, WATBus transport manager, said: “Demand for our service is at an all-time high so these new buses couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

“Like everyone else, we’ve waited for a bus and now three have come at once.

“Given the mileage we clock-up and the routes we operate, especially in remote communities, our service requires a huge logistical effort so the new IT equipment is also vitally important. Thanks to Rio Tinto’s donation, we can continue to provide this essential service to an increasing number of local people.”

Joanne Hannay, Rio Tinto’s regional economic development assistant, added: “Our legacy fund is intended to benefit entire communities and the service provided by WATBus does exactly that.

“Many of the passengers are elderly, disabled or live in remote areas where cuts in public transport provision have left some people feeling isolated.

“This is an essential service for so many of the most vulnerable people in our region so we are delighted to help keep WATBus on the road.”

Since the closure of the Lynemouth Smelter in 2012, the legacy fund has donated more than £520,000 to good causes in the county.