Bus Services Bill [Lords]

Part of Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:53 pm on 1st March 2017.

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Photo of Craig Tracey Craig Tracey Conservative, North Warwickshire 2:53 pm, 1st March 2017

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I shall discuss the elderly a little more later, because we need not only to ensure they can get to clinics, but to address issues such as isolation and loneliness, which have a big impact on health services.

The contrast between public transport in London and in my constituency is demonstrated by the fact that if I wanted to get a bus from my home in Shuttington to my constituency office in Atherstone, which is around 7 miles and takes around 15 minutes by car, it would take me an hour and a half to get there by bus. Similarly, if I wanted to get into the nearest town, Tamworth, which is 3 miles away, the bus journey would take around one hour and 40 minutes. That is not a good service for anyone wanting to get to a 9 to 5 job or to their doctor, or to use other local amenities.

I am sure the Minister is aware that HS2, which also falls under his remit, is a huge concern for the residents of North Warwickshire—arguably the most affected area outside London. At a time when much is being made of the speed with which people can access other areas of the country, my constituents currently feel let down by the speed of access to their local towns and cities. The promise of the supposed employment and benefits that HS2 could bring to the area are negated by the fact that many of my constituents simply will not be able to access them. For a resident living in Kingsbury, a community with a population of more than 7,000 that is heavily affected by HS2, it currently takes two hours and 10 minutes on public transport to get the 15 miles into Birmingham city centre, with only one bus getting there before 9 am.

We recently saw the loss of a vital lifeline link, when the 116 bus route was withdrawn with very little notice, leaving people from areas such as Kingsbury and Curdworth unable to get to work, again. The operator complied with the guidelines, but they were not robust enough to enable sufficient notice or consultation to allow people the opportunity to engage or make alternative arrangements, even though for many that would not have been possible in any event because it was their only method of transport. I appreciate that there is a Catch-22 situation, whereby although there needs to be a degree of commercial viability for companies, if they do not run the services when people want them or get people there in a reasonable time, they are simply not going to be used.

I recently ran an event on the impacts of loneliness and isolation, which have far-reaching consequences for our blue-light services and the NHS. It is clear that access to great public transport could have a huge effect on rural communities and afford people, particularly the elderly, who often need our support most, the ability to enjoy the opportunities that less remote areas enjoy as a matter of course. The benefits to the overall public purse could be very significant, not to mention the health benefits that a more active lifestyle would offer.