Will you be able to 'book a bus' in the future?
- Credit: Laurence Moss
New technology should be used to improve life in rural communities - and local transport links - East Anglian transport experts have told the government.
The call was made by Transport East - a body formed by local councils, businesses and local enterprise partnerships to make it easier for people to get around the region even if they don't have access to a car.
The body was responding to the Department for Transport's call for evidence to feed into a new rural strategy it is drawing up for managing public transport away from the country's largest cities.
Transport East argues the current system underestimates the benefits of rural services and is not flexible enough to account for the diversity of rural communities.
It says that new technology should enable more people to work from home - cutting down on the number of journeys being made - and could also be used to make public transport more responsive to people's needs. It could be used to give more people the chance to book public transport services when they need it.
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The evidence shows less than half of the rural population in the East of England can access a town centre within 30 minutes by public transport. This leads to a greater need for car travel, resulting in higher carbon emissions per journey.
Across the Transport East region 12% of rural households do not have access to a car/van compared with 23% of urban households. Local authorities have fought to maintain rural bus connections with decreasing levels of funding from central government.
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Stable investment in public transport provision would help reach net zero carbon goals, while supporting people to reach employment, education and essential services.
Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council representative for Transport East said: “Public transport is an essential service for people living in our rural communities. Current structures and funding levels mean local authorities and operators struggle to provide attractive services for everyone.
"By giving local areas more flexibility in designing and commissioning services government would see better value for money.”
Transport East also led the consultation response from all seven Sub-national Transport Bodies (STBs) in England. They agreed that market towns should become local transport hubs, which also support high-streets and communities.
But they warn that before new technology can provide the range of services they need, better broadband will have to extended to all rural areas.