Uttlesford’s youngsters could be left stranded if moped scheme hits the road

SCORES of young students and employees in Uttlesford will be left without a vital service if funding for a transport scheme can’t be found.

Z-Bikes, run by local charity Catch22, has loaned mopeds to 120 young people aged 16 to 21 to overcome the ‘no transport trap’, providing them with access to education, training and employment.

However, the service needs to find �60,000 every year to run and currently has a shortfall of some �42,000 for the coming year - which could leave many youngsters in the district’s rural areas stranded.

Connor Gray, 16, of Thaxted, faces losing his college place at Braintree College.

“Things are difficult enough and Z-Bikes has made it possible for me to get the training I need to get a job and become an independent adult,” he said.

“If it stops then I don’t know what my future will hold. I really hope that a company or other organisation in the area will come forward to fund Z-Bikes.”

Sixteen-year-old Great Sampford resident Ben Welch loaned a moped from the scheme which he uses to get to work at Waitrose in Saffron Walden. He said it would be “disastrous” if the scheme closes.

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“It has given me independence to get into work,” he said. “Without it I would not be able to get into work and could lose my job.”

Of the young people who have used the Z-Bikes service since it was launched seven years ago, 33 per cent have used the mopeds to attend college or sixth form, 17 per cent have used it to access part-time work to maintain their place at college and 55 per cent have used it to attend full-time employment.

Jane Wilson, project worker for Catch22 in Essex, said: “Living in a rural community can present many challenges to young people when they are looking to access education, training and employment.

“A lack of reliable and affordable public transport in some parts of rural Essex can be a real issue for young people. For many, Z-Bikes has been the solution to that.”

Miss Wilson added that the search is now on for alternative financial support to keep the service running.

“Z-Bikes need funding urgently,” she explained. “Without a cash injection the scheme will soon close, yet for �300 we can ensure that a young person can access their education or employment for a month.

“We hope to provide this for 20 young people for up to 12 months.”

Any companies or organisations which can help can contact Diana Cross on 01279 408370 or e-mail diana.cross@catch-22.org.uk

Alternatively, Miss Wilson will be running the London 10km race on July 10 to raise funds for the Z-Bikes scheme. To donate visit justgiving.com/jane-wilson01