The Community Council of Staffordshire is backing a plea 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), made the call for action after giving evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee.
The Community Council of Staffordshire, a member of the nationwide ACRE network of rural community councils, said the transport challenges faced by rural communities needed to be fully recognised by the Government.
Chris Welch, Chief Executive of the Community Council 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.
Here at the Community Council of Staffordshire we both run and offer support to voluntary car schemes which operate across the county. It is the case that community transport schemes play an enormously important role in plugging the gaps in traditional services.
“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.
ACRE Chief Executive Janice Banks said: “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, rural community councils 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.”