CPRE is producing a number of policy papers in advance of the General Election, including a transport statement., which we have been asked to comment on. You can access the statement here.
Elizabeth Jones, October 2023
CPRE Shropshire supports calls for more funding for rural bus services
In a new report, CPRE outlines how the government could reach its own ambition of radically improving bus services across the country by investing £2.7 billion a year. This is five times more than the Prime Minister and Transport Secretary pledged last week when launching new funding of £3bn over five years in the National Bus Strategy.
The report “Every Village, Every Hour”, says that what is needed is continuous, year on year funding to connect every community with ‘cheap, reliable and fast’ bus journeys. And CPRE’s modelling shows that, with the right investment, the government can deliver a world- leading bus network capable of matching Swiss standards where every village of two to three hundred people is guaranteed at least an hourly bus service from 6am to midnight, 7 days a week.
One way of achieving this would be to use just a portion of the funding for the government’s legally embattled and widely criticised £27 billion road building schemes to provide proper funding of bus services. The report says that if this were done, there would be enough left over to make these services free of charge.
Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity said that too many rural communities up and down the country have been languishing in so-called transport deserts where those who do not have access to a car are left with no practical way to get to work, school or doctors. Public transport for rural communities has been wholly inadequate for long enough.
He called on the government to raise the level of investment in our ailing bus services and recognise a universal basic right to public transport.
This report builds upon previous research from CPRE, which found that over a million people in the South West and North East live in areas where the only practical form of transport is the private car. While the Transport Minister rightly stated that, ‘everyone deserves to have access to cheap, reliable and quick bus journeys,’ CPRE’s analysis shows the amount invested by the government will fall woefully short of what is needed to reach every part of the country with decent public transport.
It is often overlooked that bus services provide numerous public benefits and are essential for the many people across England who do not have access to a car. Improved bus services in rural areas have the potential to change lives - this kind of investment will disproportionately benefit low income families, the elderly and the young. By providing an alternative to private car travel, local bus services can reduce traffic, air pollution, while boosting high street spending, employment, social mobility and equality.
CPRE is calling on the government to recognise a universal basic right to public transport to provide Swiss-style service standards to villages and towns that must be legally enforced.