The transport deserts leaving our rural communities high and dry
CPRE, the countryside charity, has highlighted the issue of people in rural areas being increasingly cut off from society by a lack of effective public transport.
More than half of small towns in south-west and north-east England have such bad transport connectivity that they are considered to be living in ‘transport deserts’ or areas that are at imminent risk of becoming one, research shows.
The results are presented in Transport Deserts: The absence of transport choice in England’s small towns. Although the survey focused on just two areas of England, the problem occurs countrywide.
Almost a million people (975,227) who live in these towns have no option for convenient and affordable public transport and risk being cut off from basic services if they don’t have access to a car.
A ‘transport desert’ occurs when a community lacks the public transport options for residents to be able to travel conveniently on a day-to-day basis without driving.
The research was conducted by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) for CPRE, the countryside charity. It was the first attempt to develop a scoring system to rank the public transport options available to rural communities.
Public transport services, including bus, train and community transport options, were scored in more than 160 locations in the South West and North East against their accessibility and frequency.
The analysis showed that in 56 per cent of the cases, residents who can’t drive or are unable to afford a car are at risk of being cut off from basic services.
Crispin Truman, chief executive at CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “A thriving countryside depends on well-connected small towns and villages serviced by low-carbon public transport that fit into people’s everyday lives.
“But it is clear that, outside of England’s major cities, communities are being left high and dry in ever-widening ‘transport deserts’ with completely inadequate bus and train connections.
“And this is having dramatic effect on rural communities – young people are compelled to move away, older people are left isolated and lonely, while less affluent families can be sucked into a cycle of debt and poverty.
“CPRE is calling on the government to act now to reconnect everyone with proper public transport options. That means establishing a dedicated rural transport fund.
“But recent government funding to reopen some railway lines across the country does not go nearly far enough – especially in the shadow of the £28.8 billion planned spend on roads.
“If the prime minister and this government are serious about ‘spreading opportunity to every corner of the UK’ we need decisive action to stop the march of ‘transport deserts’.”
- To read Transport Deserts: The absence of transport choice in England’s small towns, click here