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Are Rural Buses A Thing of the Past?

December 18, 2020 11:46 AM
By Councillor Dave Busby

2nap (Photo by Mangopear creative on Unsplash)Have we seen the end of buses in our villages and market towns? This part of the transport sector was struggling before CoVid hit. New analysis by the County Councils Network and the County All-Party Parliamentary Group reveals that annual bus journeys in England's 36 county councils and unitary authorities have fallen by 97m in the past decade. The number of passenger journeys in counties dropped by 12.1% during the period, almost double the England average of 6.4%. The research attributed the reduction in rural bus journeys to a funding gap of £348m.

Locally, we have all got tales of buses being cancelled or rerouted resulting in children having to be driven to school or walk miles along rural footpaths. Timetables manipulated so that workers aren't able to get to work or catch a train. The County Council has struggled to subsidise any routes as its finances have been put under severe pressure.

Since April, the bus companies have been required to stay operational to ensure essential workers could get to work and children to school. The operators must have seen a significant drop in demand over the last 9 months. Those with bus passes have stayed local and out of towns centres. Office workers, in their tens of thousands, have switched to working from home and even schoolchildren have been home taught.

However, in an effort to retain this 'green' form of transport, cross-party MPs and council leaders have called on the Government to channel a significant portion of its forthcoming £4bn national bus investment strategy into countryside bus routes. We will have to wait and see what materialises but I am not confident.

Figures taken from an article in The Telegraph.