RSN Priority - A place everyone can get around
People of all ages must have the means to travel to services, jobs and other opportunities. Not least those in the one in nine rural households that do not have a car. Transport is crucial to life opportunities and its absence can compound isolation and loneliness.
- Rural residents need to travel further than their urban counterparts. Those living in small rural settlements (villages and hamlets) travelled an average of 10,055 miles per year in 2016/17. That is 54% more than the average for residents living in urban towns and cities.
- Car ownership is relatively high in rural areas. Particularly notable is that low income households are 70% more likely to run a car if they live in a rural (rather than urban) area.
- Car ownership is a necessity for many to get around and an added cost they face.
- Less than half (49%) of households living in small rural settlements (which are villages and hamlets) had access to a regular and nearby bus service in 2012. This figure, which is due to be updated, seems likely to be have decreased since.
- Local authorities in rural areas have far less funding available to them to support bus services. In 2017/18 expenditure in predominantly rural areas was £6.72 per resident to subsidise services, compared with £31.93 in predominantly urban areas. Expenditure to cover concessionary bus fares was £13.48 (rural) and £25.54 (urban) respectively.
- There have been widespread cuts to rural bus services which depended on some public subsidy. During 2016/17 alone some 202 bus services were withdrawn altogether in shire areas and a further 191 services were reduced or altered.
- Around half (52%) of all community transport organisations either wholly or mostly serve rural communities. However, in rural areas these organisations tend to be small-scale and they rely more heavily on fare revenue (receiving less grant income).
Data sources are Department for Transport, Rural Services Network, Campaign for Better Transport and Community Transport Association.
Rural bus services are under huge financial pressure and, despite much good practice, community transport struggles to plug the gaps left behind. There are significant challenges which should be addressed by a Rural Strategy. They are:
- Reversing the widespread decline in rural bus service provision;
- Making bus services a more attractive option for rural travellers;
- Providing sustained support for complementary community transport schemes; and Ensuring future transport innovations will benefit rural communities.