Community Bus for Social Connections - Ka Chun Li

By Julia Thorley

Published: June 10, 2024

Comms MiniBus at a bus stop

Ka Chun Li runs CommMinibus, a social enterprise offering a scheduled service route founded on the principle of serving his community.

Ka is originally from Hong Kong, where using public transport is the norm. He studied at UCL and has a MA in transport planning, but rather than going into mainstream service provision, he has taken a different route. He was surprised by the UK approach to bus use.
‘I found it strange,’ he says, ‘so did some research and found there was a need for buses that connect the villages. I looked at other models of similar services, then in 2020 I set up my own. I did struggle through Covid, but there was a lot of support from my passengers.’

Serving the community

Ka operates two minibuses that each seat 16 passengers and a standard single-seater that seats 43. He runs scheduled routes around Kettering and the surrounding area. These are available to anyone and appear on timetables under their own route number and on bus stop signage.

However, it is the round trips through the villages that are at the heart of the service Ka offers. It is clear that the sense of community that has grown up is key to its success.

Comms Minibus on a country road

All aboard!

Julia and Dez from Brightwayz joined the bus on the regular Friday ‘Kettering Catcher’ connecting Broughton, Mawsley and Walgrave to Kettering – and were lucky to get a seat! It’s a very popular
service. They spoke to Tom Sanders and his wife Val, who use the bus regularly. Tom explained that the Stagecoach X10 service used to connect the villages on the A43 corridor, but has been suspended. He had been campaigning for the reinstatement of an off-peak bus service through Mawsley, so was delighted when Ka set up the CommMinibus. ‘Social engagement is very important,’ says Tom, ‘and Ka has taken this on board. I still drive, but prefer to use this bus for trips into Kettering.’

Overcoming isolation

Ka’s buses provide an invaluable service to those villages not served by other transport operators that is popular with people who no longer drive or don’t want to for environmental or other reasons.
However, it is the older or less mobile residents who appreciate it most, many of whom might otherwise feel isolated. They want to be able to travel independently without having to rely on family or friends for lifts to access shops and services in Kettering.
Several of the passengers Julia and Dez spoke to confirmed that if it wasn’t for this regular once-a-week bus, many of them wouldn’t be able to get into Kettering under their own steam. ‘If you wanted to see a Walgrave bus, you’d have to go to a museum,’ one man said.
The atmosphere on the bus is extremely convivial and there was lots of chat and laughter as we made our way through the winding lanes. ‘We’ve become friendly with each other just because we meet once a week on the bus,’ commented one passenger. ‘We’d notice if someone was missing.’

Going the extra mile

It is clear that Ka goes above and beyond what might be expected of a conventional service bus driver. He helps the passengers on and off the bus and stows their walkers and shopping trolleys for
One lady commented, ‘When the weather was really bad, he even dropped me right outside my house!’
As well as the scheduled service, Ka also runs weekly trips to Wellingborough, Weston Favell,Rushden Lakes or Corby. These have to be booked in advance. He also produces a regular newsletter that keeps passengers updated on new or altered routes and advertises forthcoming trips.


Many of the passengers have a bus pass, so travel for them is free. Others pay the flat fee of £2 per trip. The CommMinibus is funded by fares, including reimbursement from council bus pass users, and from the trips, which subsidise the regular bus services. Ka also receives grants from the council and other awarding bodies.
Ka says what he is offering complements rather than competes with what Stagecoach does. ‘I can’t benefit from the economies of scale of the bigger companies, but I try to offer something extra that they can’t. In the end, it’s the passengers who will decide. I really appreciate their support.’

Comms MiniBus Seats Comms MiniBus Sign Comms MiniBus bus stop

Looking to the future

There was talk on the bus that it would be great to have even more of the CommMinibus routes, perhaps going beyond the county. Market Harborough was mentioned as a much-wanted destination, for instance.
‘A low-emission bus would also be nice, too,’ said one passenger, while understanding that the costs of this are prohibitive at the moment.
The regulars clearly appreciate everything Ka is doing, calling him ‘amazing’ and ‘inspiring’. ‘We have to keep using this service to support Ka and keep the bus running,’ said one, while another concluded, ‘I don’t know what we’d do without this lovely bus.’

Many thanks to Ka, and to Tom, Val, Geraldine, Celia and the other passengers.

If you would like a service like CommMinibus in your area, or are in a position to set up and run one, get in touch with us at Brightwayz to find out how we can help.

Which Trips Would You Switch?

Even if you go everywhere by car, which trips would you consider switching to an CommMiniBus?  What would inspire you or enable you to give it a go? 

Our ‘Which Trips Would You Switch?’ series of case studies are based on interviews with people from Kettering, North Northamptonshire as part of the Brightwayz Get Down To Town project which aims  to support, enable and promote more travel options for short journeys in the town. 

The Get Down To Town project is funded by North Northamptonshire Council with funding from Active Travel England and is designed and delivered by Brightwayz social enterprise.

Here at Brightwayz social enterprise we love to provide information and tips to help you, your colleagues, friends and family travel in safe, active, sustainable ways for everyday journeys.

Our unique range of products is here to help support your active travel campaigns and 100% of profits from sales is ploughed back to support the work we do. Take a look at our range here and find something to help you inspire others to travel in good ways.