A COMMUNITY transport service which has been a lifeline for tens of thousands of people celebrates a major milestone this week.

Past and present volunteers at Braintree Community Transport got together to mark the scheme's 20th birthday.

The service was launched by Braintree Council in 1998 to provide subsidised travel to vulnerable people in the district, including the elderly and those with mobility issues.

It also provides transport for schools and non-profit groups.

In the first year the scheme made 6,000 journeys – last year it made 51,000.

A team of volunteer drivers make sure people without their own transport don't become prisoners in their own homes .

Council chairman Vanessa Santomauro said the service was a "lifeline" for many people.

"It isn’t a service just for trips to the GP or hospital check-ups it has developed into so much more," she said.

“It provides a friendly, personable service which has meant that a number of individuals no longer need to feel isolated – it has enabled them to be more independent and social.”

Service manager Tracey Corcoran said: “I feel privileged and proud to have worked for such an important and valued scheme for nearly twenty years.

“Its success is only possible due to the huge team effort, namely the tireless commitment of our volunteer and staff drivers and the enthusiasm of the administration team.”

Council communities boss Peter Tattersley added: “Community transport has benefited thousands of local residents over the past twenty years. It is often the only means of transport for many people.

“The scheme allows the most vulnerable people in our society, such as the elderly, those with disabilities, and people who are isolated, as well as community groups and schools, to access their local facilities.

"It enables people to retain their independence and can improve quality of life.”

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer driver or who thinks a friend or relative could benefit from the scheme can call 01376 557883 or email community.transport@braintree.gov.uk.