Woeful time for rural bus services

Pandemic related government funding for buses is to end on 1 October with last week seeing the deadline for bus operators to submit any cuts they plan to make ahead of funds ceasing

The National Bus Strategy, published in Spring last year, promised better bus provision.  Yet, when the RSN undertook a Rural Lens Review of the National Bus Strategy the plans were found woefully lacking. The RSN at the time stated:

“The paucity of rural transport options is an issue which strikes at the heart of rural disadvantage, impacting people’s access to employment, education and training, health, shops, and a host of other activities. It is a key driver of rural isolation and loneliness. It leaves rural communities highly car dependent, with consequences for the environment and national efforts to reach net zero (for carbon).  This situation reflects a long-term lack of strategic policy thinking about what transport provision is needed and appropriate in rural areas”.

The National Bus Strategy called on Local Transport Authorities to publish local Bus Service Improvement Plans in an incredibly tight timeframe and whilst rural local authorities rose to the challenge the majority were sorely disappointed.  To learn more read our article Rural Anger on Bus Funding published in April this year which was written in response to the Government’s bus funding Allocation Announcement.

RSN research at the time of the announcement found that only 7 rural authorities received funding, and sadly none received the full allocation they had asked for with the bulk of funding allocated for capital as opposed to revenue investment. The winners in the allocations appeared to be those that partnered with urban authorities as part of larger bids.  Disappointingly, many local authorities received nothing more than a holding reply from the Department of Transport saying that their bid was unsuccessful.

Funds allocated to date are clearly inadequate. As such the RSN is calling on the Government to fairly fund rural areas to ensure they are levelled up and not further left behind.  In response to recent RSN lobbying, a Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson stated:

“Rural areas are at the heart of our levelling up agenda. Our white paper is a plan for everyone, including rural communities, who rightly expect and deserve access to better services, quicker transport and quality education. We've designed our funds to ensure we reach places most in need and we continue to keep them under review as we develop each levelling up mission.”

Which sadly misses the point that in many rural areas the need is for any public transport to access employment, education and training and key services.

Find out more about RSN campaigning at Revitalising Rural – Realising the Vision


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.