STANDING UP FOR THE COUNTRYSIDE

On the buses

“You wait for hours and then three come along all at once” – in this case, not buses, but reports about buses.

1.  A CPRE press release (12 February 2020):  ‘Nearly one million people stranded in “transport deserts” as rural travel links cut’.  This figure is based on research showing that more than half the small towns in the SW and NE of England were so poorly connected that they are living in ‘transport deserts’.  In those areas nearly one million people had no convenient and affordable public transport, putting them at risk of being unable to access basic public services. 

2.  The press release draws attention to a report by the Campaign for Better Transport: Transport Deserts: The absence of choice in England’s small towns, research commissioned by CPRE.  Bus services connecting isolated rural areas have suffered grievously from the austerity years (now just ending?) of 2009/10 to 2018/19: 43% of local authority funding has been cut, while fares have increased by 63%.

However, Cornwall is showing that rural areas can develop an integrated public transport system, using railway stations as hubs.  The result is a single, effective public transport for the county.

CPRE sets out 4 aims for the government’s proposed national bus strategy:

  • increase use of bus services across the country;
  • a clear route to a zero emission bus;
  • better integration of buses with other transport;
  • an innovative use of technology.

3.  Much of the above must sound painfully familiar to Herefordshire readers.

From an already emaciated skeleton, bus service withdrawals continue.  The details are given in the Rail & Bus for Herefordshire Newsletter Winter 2019-2020  (if you are interested in transport issues, I recommend joining – see their website, rbfh.org.uk for details).  In the same issue, Herefordshire CPRE President, Professor John Whitelegg reports from rural Sweden that there are eight buses travelling to his nearest small town on Sunday, more on weekdays.  We look forward to hearing how this can be done!

Herefordshire CPRE would like to know your thoughts on transport in our county.  Are you living in an area or community with no transport links?  Do you have ideas that could provide solutions?  Where houses, shops and work places are built impacts the whole issue.  These questions and answers are vitally important to us in our campaign to protect Herefordshire’s countryside.  We need to hear your views (see 'Contact Info' at left below). 

As I go to press (not a phrase you often see on websites), we hear that Herefordshire Council is carrying out a Hereford Transport Strategy Review, to be completed by 31 July 2020.  The Review  ‘…will include work to better understand existing and future road conditions, alternative transport options and the changing national policy….’  Details can be found on the Council's 'Developments in Hereford' page  and you can submit your views via their online questionnaire by 31 March 2020.

AND FINALLY…

‘A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.’  Did Mrs Thatcher actually say this? – probably not, but it has been the ‘thinking’ behind policy for buses for the last 35 years.  By contrast, Crispin Truman (CPRE’s Chief Executive) is calling on the government to establish a dedicated rural transport fund – even a fraction of the £28.8bn planned spend on roads would make a great difference. 

Patrick Goode     

The views expressed are those of the author.

Photo by Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash