Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has pledged to extend a scheme that is helping dozens of people get to work and training opportunities for another three years after it received huge praise form local workers.
Josh Earl, 27, has been using Wheels 2 Work for around 18 months to get from his home in Guisborough to his job at seafood wholesaler Whitby Seafish Ltd in Staithes, around 25 minutes’ drive away.
The dad-of-two and stepdad-of-three said he’d highly recommend the scheme, which provides an affordable means of transport for local people who do not have easy access to public transport or a private vehicle, so they can get to their job or education.
It comes as Mayor Houchen pledges to support the scheme for another three years past March 2021 with an additional £645,000 and help grow the number of vehicles, which currently consists of around 60.
Josh said: “A friend was giving me lifts to my previous job but when he left, I needed to find my own transport as I didn’t have a car. Another mate suggested Wheels 2 Work and I thought there was no harm in giving them a ring.
“It’s been a really good experience; I can’t fault it at all. I got my CBT motorcycle training one day and the Wheels 2 Work team were over the next with the bike and gear and set me up. If I didn’t have this scooter, I’d have to travel on at least two buses on top of a 15-minute walk, so it’s saved me a lot of time, which I can spend with my partner and our family.
“Obviously, I don’t want to be using this forever – I’d eventually like to buy my own bike or, as a family man, I’d rather have a car. But as everyone knows things have been a bit tight recently and I was planning to do driving lessons but then Covid lockdown hit, so this has kept me going during that time.”
Since it was first established in early 2018, the programme has helped more than 150 people across the Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool get where they need to be for work or training. Other success stories have seen the scheme help people increase their working days, secure full-time employment, carry out care duties or, like Josh, spend more time with their families.
Mayor Ben Houchen said: “We’ve heard from lots of people like Josh about how this scheme is improving their lives, not only by giving them the ability to gain more skills or access work to earn more money for themselves and their families, but also by helping them achieve a healthy, quality balance between work and home life.
“My plan for jobs is creating qood-quality, well-paid roles across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, but this plan only works if we have accessible and affordable transport in place for people to access these opportunities. The ongoing coronavirus situation has made things more difficult than ever and Wheels 2 Work can provide a valuable alternative to public transport or private cars.
“Wheels 2 Work is a great scheme, and it’s just one initiative to get people moving, which also includes the Tees Flex on-demand bus service, our e-scooter trial, and ongoing projects to improve railway stations across the region, including Darlington and Middlesbrough, as well as improvements to our road networks.”
Mayor Houchen’s proposal will go to the Tees Valley Combined Authority Cabinet for approval next week.
For more information, visit http://rcvda.org.uk/projects/wheels-2-work