The strange death of rural buses? Part one

30 January 2012

There is much on-going debate about providing value for money, useful bus services in rural areas. We recently did a bit of work on this looking at the passenger experience of Herefordshire Council’s ‘market day buses’ and Shropshire Council’s  demand responsive ‘Shropshire Link’. The research showed just how much passengers rely on these services with a good number of passengers saying they used these services for virtually all their travel outside their neighbourhood – the report is on our website.

What is interesting in the context of the effect of removing tendered bus services especially in rural areas. Half of the passengers we spoke to would have been unable to make the journey they did if the service did not exist. Getting a lift or driving nigh on impossible for a third. Sadly only a minority of passengers said they thought the council would take much notice of them if they wanted changes to the services.

What does happen when a service totally disappears? Desk research seems to indicate little is known. We are keen to do more work in this area – some research was done in the 1980s on the impact of closing rural rail lines, but bus is the new battleground. Some reports suggest some local authorities have come up with new and better ways of providing the services, but there will clearly be some negative impact. We, as a consumer group, generally research consumption. However, in this case we might need to look at non-consumption.

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