Recent research by the Campaign to Protect Rural England has found that the past decade of Government cuts has seen the loss of 134 million miles of bus coverage, leading to the creation of so-called transport deserts. There needs to be proper funding for bus manufacturers—such as Mellor in Rochdale, which I recently spoke to—that produce the vehicles that serve rural towns and villages. Mellor produces state-of-the-art low emission vehicles that are used in many rural areas, but unfortunately it is a victim of the big bus bias and is being excluded from the Government’s “bus back better” strategy for producing vehicles at a 23-passenger capacity or less.
At the same time, by the Government’s own figures, the rural mobility fund totals just £19.4 million, a sixth of the £120 million ZEBRA—zero emission bus regional areas—funding for zero emission vehicles. What assurances will the Minister give that significant investment will be offered to ensure that such companies have greater support to deliver the vehicles that green our industries and ensure that our rural communities are genuinely connected?