RURAL TRANSPORT: SOME OF THE ISSUES
These can be summarised under three headings:
1. Issues relating to the travel requirements
of rural residents and businesses (i.e., links to nearby towns
and urban areas). Attempts to improve the accessibility of these
areas will generally result in more people being attracted to
the area, a development which will have mixed impacts on the local
economy and local housing situation.
2. Issues relating to the travel requirements
of urban residents in accessing the countryside. Traffic restraints
will have an impact on the local economy, which increasingly relies
on income from tourism.
3. Issues relating to travel between urban areas.
These transport "corridors" may also offer facilities
(shopping and other services) to the local rural communities.
The 1997 Rural Services Survey by the RDC found
75 per cent of English rural parishes
did not have a daily bus service.
94 per cent did not have any rail
service at all.
79 per cent did not have a community
Where services did exist, they were less frequent
and more expensive than in towns. Reasons for this include greater
population sparsity, longer distances travelled (and therefore
higher costs) and lower levels of subsidy. Thus the highest spending
metropolitan authority spends £85 per head on public transport
in 1997, while the highest spending shire county spends just under
£10 per head. On top of this, there are considerable variations
in concessionary fares: while shire authorities plan to spend
just over £3 per head in 1997-98, metropolitan authorities
are planning to spend £18 per head. Such a position also
results in the creation of a cycle of low service provision, as
the lack of public transport encourages by default the development
of alternative (private) transport arrangements, which in turn
reduce the demand for public transport, even though the private
and environmental costs of such an evolution may be considerable.
Lack of reliable, frequent and affordable public
transport means that car ownership is twice as high in the lowest
income decile in rural areas as in conurbations. This still means
that nearly one-fifth of households in the countryside do not
have a car, and a higher proportion do not have access to a car
when they need it (for instance in the case of the household where
the main earner has to use the car to get to work).
There are particular groups who experience transport
disadvantage more sharply. This includes older people, women (especially
with children), the disabled and the young. Restricted public
transport opportunities mean that, in particular for the young,
the choice of jobs, training and educational opportunities is