How can we reverse the demise of the rural bus service?
Everything that could go wrong for rural bus services did, but a new report suggests 10 ways that could help them to get them back on track.
‘Rural buses: reversing the decline’ examines the reasons behind the fall in rural bus services and looks at the costs in terms of rising inequality, social isolation and deprivation. It sets out a 10 point plan to regenerate the industry and ensure that rural transport meets the needs of local communities.
The report calls for reform of the Traffic Commissioners to have regard for the interests of bus users, modernisation of the role of the DVSA, for local authorities to take a more consumer-led approach to transport, and for local partnership working to be a requirement between local authorities and bus operators.
It also calls for a trial for new models of rural bus provision built on community interest or cooperative principles.
Claire Walters, Chief Executive of Bus Users, commented: “Creative and innovative solutions to the rural transport crisis are urgently needed, but will only be possible with reform of the bodies and the regulatory environment that govern it. Access to affordable and reliable transport in rural areas doesn’t just improve the lives of the people it serves: it has wider social, environmental and economic advantages that benefit us all.”
The 10-point plan includes:
- Reform the role of Traffic Commissioners to have regard for the interests of bus users
- Lower barriers of entry to the industry without compromising safety, to encourage start-up businesses
- Reform Section 63 of the 1985 Transport Act to give local authorities a ‘duty’ rather than a ‘power’ under the Act. Require them to set out a transport plan on which the public should be consulted
- Reform the local transport responsibilities of local authorities to promote a consumer-led approach
- Issue guidance on school start and finish times
- Reform community transport regulations
- Increase rural accessibility
- Trial ideas for new models of rural bus provision built on community interest or cooperative principles
- Make local partnership working a requirement between local authorities and bus operators of any kind
- Address the transport needs of the rural population.