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Making public transport better in rural areas

  • by JW

“A renaissance of the rural bus?” [National Rural Conference]


One of the biggest drives to get us out of our cars is to reduce air pollution and reduce road-use – that is, to bring down harmful emissions and road congestion.

But to encourage us to drive less we need better public transport – which is happening in urban areas in many parts of the world. Even so, public transport in our cities is still too expensive – with calls for local governments to introduce affordable ‘climate tickets’ for all buses/trains/trams.

But what about public transport in rural areas? It’s pretty inadequate – with the upcoming National Rural Conference focussing on the issue:

It is vital that rural communities can access employment, training, education and services such as medical appointments.  A lack of public transport options can make this more difficult.  We’ve seen Government attempt to tackle transport policy in recent years with Bus Back Better and the competitive bidding for Bus Improvement Funds which has ultimately left many rural areas without public transport options

On Thursday 21st September we will be focusing on rural transport in our National Rural Conference with three expert speakers joining us. The session will be opened by Selaine Saxby MP, one of the Vice Chairs of our All Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Services.

First up will be John Birtwistle, Head of Policy at First Bus who will be talking about the renaissance of the rural bus. Next, we will hear from Caroline Whitney, Director for England at the Community Transport Association sharing her views on ‘Community Transport: Challenges and Opportunities’. Finally discussion will focus on Rutland County Council and Emma Odabas, the Acting Senior Transport Manager who will share her expertise on Rural Transport in England’s smallest county.

Perhaps we will see a ‘renaissance of the rural bus’ – with Book-a-Bus, a new flexible, on-demand bus service launched by West Sussex County Council – and volunteer-run buses helping to resolve the rural transport dearth in North Yorkshire.

In the Sid Valley, we are very lucky to have the Sidmouth Voluntary Services and the range of transport services they offer. With a lovely piece from last year about “our team of volunteers…

Every week our team of volunteers work tirelessly driving mini buses and medical cars, helping in the cafe, delivering lunches and generally assisting our clients who need a helping hand. Our volunteers are greatly appreciated by everyone

As for the public bus network, the scheme launched in January to cap single bus tickets at £2 within Devon has been extended until the end of October. East Devon’s MP has been lobbying for better bus links – and now a new Devon bus timetable is about to come into effect. There are plus and minus points for the Sid Valley:

Stagecoach is adding two extra evening bus journeys via Sidbury to the route 9/9A timetable next month.

The additional services will go from Sidmouth to Honiton at 10.10pm, and Honiton to Sidmouth at 9.30pm, Monday to Saturday from 3 September. It means buses will call at Sidbury Monday to Friday at 7.18pm and 10.24pm going from Sidmouth to Honiton, and at 7.10pm, 8.05pm and 9.52pm going from Honiton to Sidmouth, with variations on Saturday.

Evening services used to stop in the village roughly hourly in both directions before cuts in July last year.