Improve transport for isolated, says Committee
In its latest report, the Government’s Transport Committee has called for action to improve passenger transport services for isolated communities. It claims policy makers across all Government departments must recognise the ‘fundamental importance’ of passenger transport for providing access to education, healthcare and employment in all kinds of isolated communities.
Transport Select Committee Chair, Louise Ellman MP, said, ‘Old and young, unemployed people, those on low incomes and disabled people who live in isolated communities rely on passenger transport. For example two out of every five job seekers cite lack of transport as a barrier to finding work. All these groups are disproportionately affected by inadequate or reduced services. It is vital that all ministers recognise the fundamental importance of passenger transport in providing access to education, healthcare and employment.’
‘Policy makers sometimes equate “isolated” with “rural” or island communities, but we found that some urban and suburban areas have inadequate passenger transport. The DfT should draft a definition of “isolated communities” for use across central and local government to target scarce resources in ways that reach all types of isolated community. We reiterate our long held concern that subsidised bus services continue to disappear as funding is cut. The bus industry must work with local authorities to deliver essential local services through the development of quality contracts similar to arrangements that operate in London.’
The Committee also challenges the DfT’s assertion that community transport schemes run by volunteers can compensate for decreased bus services in isolated communities. Louise Ellman added, ‘We recognise their value but many community transport schemes are tiny and only serve particular groups in the community. It is unrealistic to expect volunteers to replace local bus services. If, for example, hospital transport were combined with local bus services, it might revolutionise services for isolated communities. We want to see the DfT test that concept in practice by co-ordinating large-scale pilot schemes.’
Campaign for Better Transport has welcomed the report. Public Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport, Martin Abrams, said, ‘Lack of regular and good quality public transport affects many people for whom driving isn’t an option, including young people, elderly people and families who can’t afford a car. In this context, recent cuts and inconsistencies in bus services which cut people off from their communities are incomprehensible. We’re delighted to hear the Committee’s recommendations for more joined-up working across government departments and transport providers and we hope the Government as a whole will respond quickly and positively.’