Do more to improve rural transport, says House of Commons report

The House of Commons Transport Select Committee has published a new report which calls on the Government and local authorities to do more to address the transport problems faced by those living in isolated communities, including more support for traditional public transport services as well as the exploration of new ways of providing transport. It also describes as "unrealistic" government expectations that volunteer-led community transport can fill gaps in public transport provision.

The report, Passenger Transport in Isolated Communities, is the result of a year-long enquiry by the Committee which began with a call for evidence which we featured on this website and which Rural Action Yorkshire's parent organisation, Action With Communities in Rural England, made a submission to.

In the report, the Committee acknowledges that while local authorities make the final decision on provision of public transport in their areas, they have been doing so since 2010 in the context of severe cuts to public spending which have forced them to cut budgets in all areas, and that public transport has suffered accordingly. The report states that the Department for Transport is "ultimately responsible for passenger transport in isolated communities, because it determines the level of subsidy to local government; it has the capacity to define and consequently support ‘isolated communities’; and it decides which vulnerable groups are provided with concessionary transport services."

The report recommends that the Department for Transport should work with other government departments such as Health and Education, as the provision of good transport connections is vital to delivering those departments' services and objectives in isolated communities. It also pointed out that not all isolated communities are necessarily rural, as even urban communities can suffer from a lack of public transport.

Community involvement in transport is a major focus of the report, with substantial evidence gathered about the impact of Community Rail Partnerships and the work of volunteer-led community transport initiatives. However, the report concludes that Government and local authorities "are being unrealistic if they expect voluntary community transport projects to compensate for decreased bus services. Although community transport has an important role to play, in practice it does not serve all sections of the community and therefore cannot substitute for bus services."

Recommendations made by the report include a large-scale pilot project to investigate the concept of Total Transport, which involves combining the transport services which currently are provided separately to organisations such as schools and hospitals with those provided to the wider community.

The full report, which includes weblinks to all the written submissions received by the Committee, can be downloaded below, or you can find out more by visiting the Select Committee's website.

Update 11 August 2014

The Local Government Information Unit has produced a Policy Briefing summarising the key points of the report and commenting on some of its implications for local government in particular. You can download the Briefing using the link below.

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File HoC Transport Select Cmmte Report Transport in Isolated Communities July 2014.pdf387.49 KB
File LGIU Policy Briefing - HoC Transport Cmmte report - Aug 2104.pdf162.32 KB