A new report by the Campaign for Better Transport, out today (5th December) attempts to signpost how bus services in rural areas, like Hart could be improved, and make communities more accessible.
The research, entitled ‘The future of rural bus services in the UK’ shows we are not alone in having lost services, or facing circuitous routes* which can often only contribute to making a service even less attractive, or less reliable.
Darren Shirley, Chief Executive of the Campaign for Better Transport said; “Bus cuts and shrinking transport networks are making it harder for people to get to work or school, to visit friends and family, or access shops and services, as well as putting extra pressure on our congested roads.”
The report argues that buses are a key part to any part of any sustainable transport plan, which can relieve increasingly congested roads (with associated air pollution and environmental damage, and threats to economic productivity), as well as being a lifeline to those without a car, typically older people, younger people, the disabled, and those on lower incomes who may otherwise find themselves stranded or isolated.
In talking to local people as part of gathering evidence for the neighbourhood plan, time and time again, the evaporation of the local bus network is one the recurring themes. Over recent decades, we have lost the ability to get direct services to Fleet, Farnborough, Basingstoke, Reading and London.
This report highlights the need for bus and rail services which connect with each other; more ‘demand responsive’ services which utilise flexible routes where there is less demand; resourcing for community transport solutions, like Yelabus (and the Hartley Wintney Community Transport service, which has been hugely valued in feedback to our consultation by residents of Frogmore and East Green) as part of the public transport network; more account to be taken of modern lifestyles and travel needs when planning networks & services; and more effective use of technology, and smarter ticketing options.
It calls for better incentives for companies providing transport in rural areas to develop and improve services, and wants better partnerships between local authorities and private companies, as well as a wider range of operators and services.
Another valuable national report to reflect on as we consider more specific local evidence too, particularly about congestion, and its impact on commuting from Yateley, Darby Green and Frogmore.
(*) while mentioning circuitous routes, we have to highlight the ‘No. 2’ route from Yateley to Farnborough (about 6 miles on the most direct route on a map). At some points in the day, it can take up to an hour and three-quarters to cover this route! Anyone who uses the buses knows you either use one of the two college buses (which take a mere twenty or so minutes), or failing that, you change en route. But why design it that way? It hardly seems the best way to encourage people uninitiated in using buses from using them – and it leaves Yateley, Darby Green and Frogmore without a direct service to mainline, London Waterloo railway services, from either Farnborough (Main), or from Fleet. This just does not seem possible in the 21st century.