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Bus Services: Rural Areas

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 20th February 2020.

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Photo of Marion Fellows Marion Fellows SNP Whip, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Disabilities)

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps he is taking to increase the availability of broadband for smart ticket machines on buses in the rural areas of (a) Scotland, (b) England, (c) Wales and (d) Northern Ireland.

Photo of Matt Warman Matt Warman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Department for Transport statistics show that in March 2019, 92% of buses in England outside London were enabled for smart ticketing and 72% offered contactless payment. The Department for Transport offers bus operators in England outside London an additional incentive to implement smart ticketing through the Bus Service Operators Grant. Policy on bus services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is a devolved matter.

The Government announced in-principle support in October 2019 for the Mobile Network Operators’ (MNOs) Shared Rural Network (SRN) proposal. The proposal would share investment costs between the mobile network operators and government and increase 4G mobile coverage throughout the United Kingdom to 95% by 2025, with the biggest improvements seen in the devolved nations. It will be underpinned by a legally binding coverage commitment from each operator.

The Government's in-principle support is subject to detailed negotiations. While this is not yet a done deal, the Prime Minister has made improvements to rural mobile coverage part of his first 100 days pledge. I will continue to work with the sector to make that happen.

Smart ticketing is dependent on good mobile coverage, so improvements in geographic coverage, including on major roads will facilitate the option for bus companies to provide smart ticket machines on buses in the rural areas of each nation of the UK, if they choose to do so.

This Government is committed to improving digital connectivity overall. It has committed to investing £5bn to improve broadband connections in the hardest to reach areas of the UK.

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