The new Local Transport Bill, which is due to gain Royal Assent in the summer, gives councils new powers to improve the quality of local bus services. Research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlights the opportunities for councils to make a difference for poorer communities.
The study looked at transport projects in deprived areas in Leicester, West Cornwall, West Midlands and Greater Manchester. It found that the new services were enabling local people to take up new job opportunities, get to essential health appointments and make shopping and leisure trips that were previously not possible.
The study also revealed a need for many more public transport initiatives across the country if people without cars are to access the opportunities the average driver takes for granted. One of the obstacles to getting funding for this is that there is no agreed method for calculating the benefits of the wider contribution of public transport services to people’s improved quality of life generally or the economic vibrancy of local areas.
The authors conclude that the travel needs of people in deprived areas cannot be wholly met by commercial public transport and more needs to be done by national and local government to support subsidised transport services in deprived and rural areas.