The Importance of the Rural Bus

Bus cuts are a false economy for any Council. Here is a post I wrote back in 2013:

East Ilsley and Compton (bus shelter + water table full) 010413 010gd

I recently visited Ivy in Ashmore Green. A woman in her eighties, Ivy is still bright and lively. When I met her, she had recently given up driving and was still reeling from discovering that her local bus service, the 76, that connects Ashmore Green to the rest of the world, runs once a week.

Now, all credit to the Minicoach company that runs this service, but a bus that runs just once a week is not something around which you can build a life and a thriving community depends on more than just driving-age adults. Without public transport:

* How are youngsters supposed to get to school or take part in after-school sports clubs, revision sessions, dance, drama and music?

* How are young people who can’t afford driving lessons or insurance supposed to get to work?

* How are our older residents, no longer confident with driving but still keen to visit friends, do their shopping and generally stay involved in their local community supposed to manage?

A National Survey conducted by Passenger Focus in 2013 highlighted the how those living in countryside villages like East Ilsley and Lambourn as well as towns like Hungerford and Thatcham, regard public transport as lifeline. One third of respondents said the option to drive or get a lift was either impossible or very inconvenient. If bus services were not available around half the people who responded say they would have been unable to make their journey that day. Not everyone has a Mum or Dad, or son or daughter standing by with a car to hand.

Rural pubs and shops benefit from good local bus services, but protecting rural transport is about more than economics. Keeping people connected builds community, and community builds health and happiness.

Thinking about public transport at a time when may districts are seeing terrible cuts may seem to be missing the point, but if local authorities are to have any relevance in the future they need to help their communities flourish and with ingenuity and good planning decent public transport for rural and other outlying communities is possible.

If local authorities can help residents who live in suburbs and villages get to and from work, children to travel to and from school and older people, like Ivy, to travel independently to doctors, shops and other activities, then they are likely to find that people draw less heavily on social services, job centres and doctors.

Invest in the framework, enable your community – it’s the only way to a successful future.

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