ACRE calls for key outcomes from Commons transport inquiry
by Claire McGine, Head of Communications

Leading rural network ACRE has called for five key outcomes from a Commons inquiry into transport in isolated rural communities.

Janice Banks, chief executive of ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England), spoke out after giving evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee.

Ms Banks said: “Many rural dwellers who don’t have access to a car are finding it a real challenge to reach the services they need – whether that’s a hospital, post office, bank or shop – because of cuts in public transport.

“The Government must take a joined-up approach to rural transport services before people living in rural communities become even more isolated and disadvantaged.”

“Most members of our nationwide network of rural community councils run community transport schemes which try to plug the gaps left by traditional services. Many of these schemes are very well-used but, even so, some are struggling financially and finding it hard to recruit volunteers.

“Only 42% of households in the most rural areas have a regular bus service – compared with 96% of urban households, while rural dwellers travel 10,000 miles each year compared with 6,400 by their urban counterparts.

“The Government must take a joined-up approach to rural transport services before people living in rural communities become even more isolated and disadvantaged.”

ACRE is calling for five key outcomes from the Transport Committee inquiry:

  • The Government must accept that essential rural transport services will always need subsidies.
  • Local authorities should be obliged to provide core rural transport services and support community transport schemes that fill in the gaps.
  • Better connectivity and partnership working between all transport providers – bus, rail, community transport and taxis – is needed to give the best service with the resources available.
  • Recognition of the needs of vulnerable groups, including the young, elderly, jobless and disabled, in isolated communities.
  • Better communication of the services that are available – unused transport is not viable.

Ms Banks added: “The Government needs to accept that it is totally unrealistic for essential rural transport services to run without subsidies. Local authorities need sufficient funding for core services – and to be able to give support to the volunteers who run community transport schemes, from minibuses to car shares.

“Communities need bespoke solutions for their transport problems – and this means transport providers, local authorities and community volunteers sitting down together to work out the best approach.

“Until the Government recognises the scale of the transport challenges facing people in rural communities, we are going to see more unemployed people missing out on job offers, more children missing out on after-school activities and more vulnerable people missing out on vital medical appointments.

“ACRE very much welcomed the opportunity to put forward its views to the House of Commons Transport Committee and we look forward to reading its report. We hope the outcome is a better deal for people living and working in rural communities.”