Bus services offer a vital lifeline for people in rural communities such as Penrith and The Border, and the importance of this connectivity has been brought into sharp relief in the pandemic. In 2014, Cumbria County Council opted to stop using central Government funds to subsidise commercial bus services, meaning some routes were not viable for operators, leading to a reduction in provision. Does my hon. Friend agree that now is the time for the council to revisit that decision and use available funds to support rural bus routes to allow people to go about their lives, reconnect and improve their health and welfare?
We recognise the importance of public transport for the sustainability and the independence of communities, particularly in rural areas like Cumbria, which is why we are providing a £20 million rural mobility fund to support demand-responsive services in rural and suburban areas. I am pleased to say that thanks to my hon. Friend’s support, Cumbria County Council was successful in phase 1 and has been invited to participate in phase 2.