Dursley Buses: David's letter to Dept of Transport - and the Minister's reply
I wrote to the Department of Transport asking it to support rural bus services, after many people in Dursley contacted me to tell me about the impact of a reduced timetable.
Government Minister Nusrat Ghani replied to tell me the Gloucestershire County Council had been granted almost £500,000 of government funding to support rural transport.
But this doesn’t seem to be helping the people of Dursley who are suffering from increasing isolation.
Here’s my letter and the Minister’s reply.
Dear Jesse Norman MP
I am writing on behalf of a great number of constituents who have recently contacted me regarding changes to bus time tables in our constituency of Stroud.
We are a rural area with already very poor public transport. For example, travel to the closet large city, Bristol, by car takes half an hour, however by train this journey is closer to an hour and a half.
Furthermore Stagecoach, the local bus service provider, has recently drastically cut routes. This has left those who rely on public transport isolated, unable to get to work or make hospital appointments.
Bus services are profit driven and those not covering costs are scrapped. Rural isolation and poor social mobility is a serious concern and so we would like to know what your department plans to do to address these concerns.
David Drew MP
Department for Transport
From the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
Nusrat Ghani MP
19 September 2018
Thank you for your letter of 20 August to Jesse Norman, on behalf of a number of your constituents, about cuts to bus services in rural areas. I am replying as the Minister responsible for this issue.
The Government recognises the importance of public transport for the sustainability and independence of communities, particularly those in rural area.
Around three-quarters of bus services outside London are provided on a commercial basis by private operators. Where there is not enough demand for a bus route to be commercially viable in its own right, all local authorities have powers to subsidise bus services. Around one-fifth of all bus services are subsidised in this way.
The majority of public funding for local bus services is via block grant provided to local authorities in England from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. There is no doubt that the funding settlement for local authorities has been tough, but the level of funding was set to be sufficient to enable local authorities to deliver effective local services whilst ensuring that they do not set excessive council tax increase doe residents.
However, the Government is also keen to give local authorities more say over how that funding should be spent locally. That is why, since January 2014, £43 million of the Bus Service Operator Grant (BSOG) payments which were previously paid to the bus companies for running services under tender to local authorities are instead going to local authorities who tender these services. Gloucestershire County Council received £458,365 for 2018/19. Some local authorities have chosen to use this funding to invest in alternative services such as demand responsive transportation.
The Bus Services Act 2017 introduces a number of new tools to help local authorities in rural areas improve local bus services. Through partnership arrangements we have enabled local authorities and bus operators to work constructively to provide better services for passengers. We are working with a number of interested local authorities to determine which of the powers provided in the Act are best able to support bus networks in rural areas.
Ultimately it is for local authorities, working in partnership with their communities, to identify the right transport solutions that meet the challenges faced in their areas, and deliver the greatest benefits for their communities with the funding streams that are available to them. They are also encouraged to utilise the tools in the Bus Service Act 2017 to help improve rural bus services.