Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border, today raised the issue of Cumbrian rural bus services at Transport Questions in the House of Commons.
Dr Hudson’s initial question to the Transport Minister:
“What steps his Department is taking to improve access to bus services in rural areas in Cumbria?”
Transport Minister Robert Courts MP responded:
“We are developing a National Bus Strategy for England, Cumbria is participating in phase 2 of the Rural Mobility Fund.”
In his supplementary question Dr Hudson asked:
“Bus services offer a vital lifeline for people in rural communities like Penrith and The Border and the importance of this connectivity has been brought into sharp relief in the pandemic. In 2014 Cumbria County Council opted to stop using central Government funds to subsidise commercial bus services, meaning some routes were not viable for operators and leading to a reduction in provision. Would my Honourable Friend agree that now is the time for the Council to revisit that decision and use available funds to support rural bus routes to allow people to go about their lives, reconnect and improve their health and welfare?”
The Minister replied with:
“We recognise the importance of public transport for the sustainability and the independence of communities particularly in rural areas like Cumbria which is why we are providing a £20 million Rural Mobility Fund to support demand-responsive services in rural and suburban areas. I am pleased to say that thanks to my Honourable Friend’s support Cumbria County Council was successful in phase 1 and has been invited to participate in phase 2.”
Speaking after the Commons session Dr Hudson commented:
“I am pleased that the Government recognises the importance of buses to rural Cumbria and is backing them. The importance of rural buses services to my constituents cannot be underestimated. In such a rural constituency the connectivity of people to their communities and local amenities is more important than ever, as demonstrated by the challenges that the pandemic has presented.
I have raised the issue of the Council not using monies to subsidise commercial services with both the Council and the Government. I urge Cumbria County Council to revisit their decision of 2014 and help support rural bus services and make full use of the Government support available”