So many rural communities are completely car dependent. Those that cannot or do not drive, are cut off from nearby towns, family, friends, and essential public services. Buses are the only feasible public transport in many small towns and villages as new services are quick to implement, and don’t require expensive infrastructure.
The Government published “Bus Back Better” in March. This new focus on buses certainly makes a welcome change from Thatcher’s famous deriding of bus-goers, which seemed to outlive her in Westminster. What’s more, it recognises that “local bus fares have risen by 1.4% a year in real terms since 2010”.
This new strategy, alongside the £3bn pledged in 2019, will provide opportunities for improvement to some bus services but it comes nowhere close to reversing decades of bus route axing, fare increases and neglect. The lack of funding is especially stark when compared to the government’s £27bn road building programme.
In Switzerland, every village of two to three hundred people is guaranteed at least an hourly bus service from 6am to midnight, 7 days a week. Countryside charity CPRE is campaigning for a swiss standard bus service in the UK. Its report “Every Village, Every Hour”, published in March, shows that a year on year investment from the government is needed in order to meet the needs of everyone, especially those in rural areas. The petition by CPRE calling for reliable bus services for every community now has over 50,000 signatures.
As part of SCATE’s Sustainable Transport Pledges, we are asking council candidates to “Support every village/town having a bus service every hour.” But what would that commitment mean in real terms? There’s several ways councillors should fulfil this pledge:
- Engaging with the plans laid out in “Bus Back Better”; for enhanced partnerships and franchising of bus services.
- Working across transport authority borders to provide better connected bus networks.
- Lobbying government to provide year on year investment to buses and increase the ambition to provide real alternatives to car ownership for rural communities.
SCATE has asked candidates from the Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and Green parties to sign up to our Sustainable Transport Pledges (the rest of which can be seen here). We’re also encouraging others to write to candidates we’ve already contacted as well as those from other parties and independents, encouraging them to respond to the google form. The deadline for submission is 26/4/21, at which point we’ll be collecting the results, and publicising them across the south coast.