Headlines: June 15th, 2009

A campaign has begun to persuade the Government to fund a large-scale shared taxi project, TaxiPlus, to provide subsidised travel for rural communities. Members of the Commission for Rural Communities and the Commission for Integrated Transport marked the start of the campaign by visiting the Rural Wheels initiative in Cumbria.

The Commission for Integrated Transport has produced a report calling for Government support for Taxi Plus. It showed how rural bus provision has declined, with operators concentrating on the more lucrative urban market, and said rural isolation had been compounded by a move away from local service provision.

CfIT and the CRC believe a flexible taxi system is a practical and affordable answer to a growing problem. The Rural Wheels scheme is operated by Cumbria County Council and provides door-to-door transport using smart card technology for ease of payment. It covers the whole county and last year carried more than 12,000 people at a charge of 30 pence a mile.

Dr. Lynn Sloman, the Vice-Chair of CfIT said: “We need reform of the licensing of taxis and the funding for public transport in order to stimulate these services. This is why we are now pushing for Government to fund a seven-year large-scale pilot project to demonstrate the value of these ‘TaxiPlus’ shared taxi schemes.”

The chairman of the CRC, Dr. Stuart Burgess, said low income households in the least densely populated areas of the country were spending more than 30 per cent more on motoring each week than people in more densely populated areas. “More efficient and environmentally beneficial ways for rural people to move around in rural areas now need to be found. Rural Wheels appears to be an ideal solution,” he said.