Just pick up the phone to call Loanhead company to retain your independence

Dial a Ride bus driver Jimmy Hunter, pictured on a pick-up at Penicuik Leisure Centre
Dial a Ride bus driver Jimmy Hunter, pictured on a pick-up at Penicuik Leisure Centre

Loanhead-based HCL Transport has been helping people with mobility issues get out and about and retain their independence for more than 36 years.

The charitable company, set-up in 1982, has 28 vehicles and 40 members of staff at its Bilston Glen Industrial Estate home. While it also has a base at Bathgate. It provides two key services to people who struggle to get out and about – Dial-a-Bus and Dial-a-Ride.

HCL’s fundraising officer Laura Kearney explained more. She said: “It’s one of those charities people don’t often know about until they benefit from its service. There are many more people who could benefit from the service if they were aware of it.

“Dial-a-Bus is very much about picking up multiple people on a route. They have routes each day. Then Dial-a-Ride is a more bespoke service where people book to go where they want to go to. It’s a ‘through the door’ service, not just a taxi.

“If say it’s a blind person, the driver would go into their house and assist them into their wheelchair and then into the building until they are with who they are to meet.

“They are very important services. What strikes me, with Dia-a Bus in particular, is these people getting picked up couldn’t get out themselves, so it’s giving them independence.”

Laura spoke about the friendly feeling on Dial-a-Bus services, which cost £1.75 each way. She said: “There is a great camaraderie as its the same people getting the bus, meeting people they wouldn’t otherwise meet. Even if they live in the next street.

“It’s developing and expanding their social lives. The routes sometimes go on little trips. There is a nice community feel being created on these journeys.

“I think it’s a fabulous service and definitely allows more people to be independent.

“There are booking numbers for the Lothian services. Everyday we put the routes up on our Facebook page. But that’s not to say we wouldn’t add other routes.

“The first bus journey is free and Dial-a-Ride is £5 off the first journey.”

Passengers told the Advertiser why they use the service. Marian Cumming said: “The service is always very good and allows me to get out and about when I otherwise would be isolated at home alone. I very much appreciate the help, care and kindness of both drivers and office staff.”

Annette Cunningham said: “The service gives me the freedom and independence which I require to live a good life.”

And Eleanor Pacitti added: “This is a truly wonderful service. It’s good to get fresh air as at home one feels a prisoner.”

Go towww.hcltransport.org.uk/home for more information.