To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent assessment he has been made of the adequacy of bus services in (a) rural and (b) coastal communities; what assessment he has made of the role bus services have in enabling access to (i) NHS appointments, (ii) social care provision and (iii) dental services; and what steps his Department has taken to ensure that the National Bus Strategy will support rural communities with a limited access to the rail network.
Local authorities have recently published Bus Service Improvement Plans, which provide an assessment of existing services in their area, including detail of current provision for rural and coastal communities. Government supports local authorities working with partner agencies to improve bus access to amenities and services – including health and social care needs.
The Strategy encourages consideration of Demand Responsive Transport for large workplaces with anti-social hours, such as hospitals and in areas where demand is more dispersed, and the distances involved make it more challenging to maintain or provide services which meet residents’ diverse needs.
We have already established a Rural Mobility Fund (RMF) worth £20 million to trial more demand responsive services and have awarded funding to 17 pilot projects. The first pilots have recently launched. The RMF provides us and local authorities with an opportunity to better understand the challenges associated with introducing bookable bus services in rural and suburban settings.