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Future of Transport: rural strategy

Read the NPC response to the call for evidence on the Future of Transport: rural strategy

Future of Transport Rural Strategy Call for Evidence Department for Transport Zones 1-3, Floor 3, Great Minster House 33 Horseferry Road



15 February 2021

Dear Future of Transport Rural Strategy Team


for the Future of Transport Rural Strategy Call for Evidence


The National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC) is Britain’s biggest independent organisation of older people, representing around one thousand local, regional, and national pensioner groups with a total of 1.5 million members. The NPC is run by and for pensioners and campaigns for improvements to the income, health and welfare of both today’s and tomorrow’s pensioners and this response is based on the views and experiences of our members. We wish to submit views to the Department for Transport for the consultation for the Future of Transport Regulatory Review.


We do not have the resources to respond in detail to all of the individual questions in the document. Therefore, our contribution is couched in general terms with areas of concern specifically mentioned. It has, however, been compiled by our Transport Working Party whose members have significant experience, often at a very senior level, in the transport industry as well as our Campaign Officer and Information Officer.

Our response will concentrate on the experiences and concerns of our members who are, by definition, in the older age range and many of whom have mobility impairment. For ease of reference, our responses to this inquiry relate to the topic headings set out in the consultation document.

Our Approach

Unfortunately, this consultation appears narrowly focussed on the possibility of transport innovation in what are described as rural areas. Whilst the definition of rural areas used is derived from Government statistical work it is not one that those who live outside cities or medium sized towns will recognise, due to the Government’s definition of a rural area as the share of a local authority district that is classified as rural.

That classification is determined by the distribution of population within an area and takes no account of the absence or presence of public transport links. So, for example villages and hamlets that happen to lie within a local authority district with one or more smaller towns may not be seen as rural by this consultation although they may well include scattered hamlets or villages located a mile or more along rural lanes from a transport corridor. Such places are often those that have no regular form of public transport, a significant number of older people and a journey of several miles to reach local services.

They are also often among those who have inferior infrastructure and face closure and/or consolidation of local services such as post offices, local shops, libraries and local health centres. All these have greater effect on older and mobility impaired people who are less likely to own private transport and so increase their desire for public transport provision. Any review of transport provision has to recognise that most people will see those as rural areas, otherwise the review will inevitably be flawed because transport in itself must exist to satisfy a community’s need to access services – not the other way around.

For ease of reference, our responses to this inquiry relate to the topic headings set out in the consultation document. We have addressed the topic of Building upon Urban Transport Principles first because in our view the principles of a Rural Transport Strategy are the bedrock of any policy.


Building upon Urban Transport Principles

Rural areas are not urban areas with more space. They have their own distinct challenges. In all but a very few rural environments travel options for the foreseeable future will be road based. Heavy and light rail systems will generally not have the demand or penetration to make them viable. Due to the distances involved and in many cases the topography, cycling and walking will not be a major option for older people who in general will have more health constraints than younger people.

It is also important to remember that businesses in rural areas also employ people who travel from outside the area. Farming and horticulture require distribution networks and staff to run the business, warehousing is often located on the periphery of rural areas and tourism employs many people. Our suggested list of rural principles is as follows: -

1. Transport systems in rural areas must be organised to facilitate access for all to local services such as Post Offices, Health Centres, libraries, local shops and places of worship, and be accessible to everyone. As a social service guaranteed ring-fenced Government funding must be available for rural transport services. (Key principle)

2. Rural transport services must be organised to operate for users as part of an integrated transport system combining public and if necessary, multiple other modes of transport with services coordinated if a change of service is necessary. There must be one fare between a joining point and the nearest hub town even if the journey involves different operators. (Key principle)

3. Rural transport services must operate to conditions imposed by the Local Transport Authority in England (or their equivalent in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and to a set timetable if not provided on a demand responsive basis. (Key principle)

4. People in rural areas need to access neighbouring cities or towns that are often in different local authority areas for access to Education, employment, health and hospitals, shopping, leisure and entertainment. Neighbouring Local Authorities should have a duty to work together to ensure there is adequate provision of public transport to enable people to undertake these cross-boundary journeys throughout the day. (Key principle)

5. Rural transport systems operating to conditions imposed by the Local Transport Authority (or their equivalent in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) must accept passes issued under the provisions of the relevant National Concessionary Travel scheme(s) as payment. (Key principle)

6. Transport operators must not discriminate against those who do not have access to digital technology. (Key principle)

7. New modes of transport and new mobility services must be safe and secure by design

8. The benefits of innovation in transport must be available to all parts of the UK and all parts of society.

9. Walking, cycling and of course horse riding should remain options for short or leisure rural journeys for both residents and those from nearby urban areas. This means that bridleways and public footpaths need to be maintained and motorised traffic excluded where it is inappropriate.

10. New transport services must assist a transition to zero emissions

11. Mobility innovation must help to improve access to services for rural residents without any cost penalty.

12. The marketplace for mobility must be open to stimulate innovation and give the best deal to consumers.

13. Data from new transport services must be shared, where appropriate, to improve choice and the operation of the transport system

Six of the principles are indicated as key because they are considered the basis of an effective rural transport system. Transport is a cross boundary / departmental topic and contributes to effective outcomes of policies and strategies in other areas such as Health, Education and Social Inclusion. The key principles must be taken into account in policies and strategies for such areas.


Digital Connectivity and capability

Older and mobility impaired people will over time become more confident in using digital technology. Nevertheless, there will still remain those who are excluded because of cost, unavailability of broadband connections or lack of confidence. Seeking information over the internet is often very difficult as it can require the use of more than one site and complex interactions.