It is ‘very easy’ to provide high quality public transport to rural communities, a new study comparing approaches to transport in Britain, Sweden, Germany and Switzerland has concluded.
The study, commissioned by the Foundation for Integrated Transport, found that Shropshire has far fewer bus services connecting its towns and villages with each other, with larger centres and with trains than in comparable areas of Europe.
Entitled Shropshire Rural Buses, the report shows that while in Shropshire buses do not connect with trains, in comparable areas in Sweden, Germany and Switzerland small towns and villages have bus links with train stations.
Buses often stop running in the early evening and do not run on Sundays and bank holidays in Shropshire. However, in small towns in Sweden, Germany and Switzerland, buses often start at 6am and run through until 10pm and run seven days a week.
The report, which involved contacting over 150 town and parish councils in Shropshire, also found that buses are more frequent in these three countries than they are in Shropshire and they travel at times that are more convenient for the average working day.
The report concludes that there is no such thing as a ‘rural transport problem’.
‘This report is asking for changes in the way that all politicians and decision-takers think about buses,’ said the study’s author Professor John Whitelegg, a visiting professor at the School of the Built Environment, Liverpool John Moores University.
‘Currently in Shropshire buses are a low priority for the council and subject to large budget cuts. We can do so much better than the current disorganised and un-coordinated arrangement.
‘Establishing a regional and sub-regional co-ordinated model of integrated rural transport is the first step. After that we need to address funding but changing the way we do things is more important than more funding.
‘Rural residents in Shropshire and in every other English shire deserve a much better bus service than the one currently on offer and the time is now right to embark on the upgrade.’