North Warwickshire and Bedworth’s voice in Parliament Craig Tracey has implored Ministers to use the Bus Services Bill to solve issues currently facing residents living in rural communities.
Mr Tracey particularly emphasised the risk and implications of isolation for elderly people who have to rely on public transport.
Speaking in the House of Commons Craig Tracey stated:
“We need to consider how rural bus services are run, and the passage of the Bill seems like an opportune time to do so. As I have said, I welcome the measures set out in the Bill, but would like the Minster to look at how we can ensure that our rural communities are not cut off and left behind. With an ageing population and the likelihood that people will become more isolated if more is not done soon, as well as the pressures that increased building will put on our already struggling infrastructure in North Warwickshire and Bedworth, better service provision is an absolute must. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments on how the Bill can make that happen.”
Transport Minister Andrew Jones responded to Craig’s commented in his conclusion to the debate by saying:
“Many colleagues asked about rural services. Through franchising and partnership, the Bill will work for every area of the country—urban and rural. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey), who is a great champion of rural bus services, that the Bill’s partnership powers allow local authorities to work with operators to improve the co-ordination of services, for example to link bus and rail services more closely. A good example of that is under way in Cornwall, which is already working in partnership with operators to ensure that rural areas have bus links to key shopping or employment centres at the right times of day. That is a positive development, which already uses the powers in the Bill. The local operator has invested in its fleet and increased its profitability and patronage in the area.
“Several authorities are also planning bus services alongside community transport services and other types of transport, such as home-to-school or patient transport, so that rural connectivity is maximised. That is the sort of innovation that we need across the country and that we are encouraging through our Total Transport pilot scheme, to which the hon. Member for Nottingham South referred. The Government are a strong supporter of community transport.”
Craig Tracey has recently held a local event in North Warwickshire with health professionals to tackle isolation, which he believes is a significant issue of concern for elderly people.
The local MP explained:
“I recently ran an event on the impacts of loneliness and isolation, which have far-reaching consequences for our blue-light services and the NHS. It is clear that access to great public transport could have a huge effect on rural communities and afford people, particularly the elderly, who often need our support most, the ability to enjoy the opportunities that less remote areas enjoy as a matter of course. The benefits to the overall public purse could be very significant, not to mention the health benefits that a more active lifestyle would offer.”
The Bus Services Bill continues to move through Parliament following its second reading in the House of Commons.
Craig’s speech can be seen here -