Cumbria is to receive £1.5m in Government funding to improve rural transport in the county.
The cash is part of a £20 million Rural Mobility Fund, designed to trial on-demand responsive transport in rural and suburban settings – such as minibuses booked via an app – where a traditional bus service isn’t appropriate.
Penrith and the Border MP Neil Hudson said the new funding would “make a significant positive impact on the lives of people living in more remote communities across Penrith and the Border by boosting their local transport links, as well as providing a valuable insight into an innovative approach to bus travel.”
Dr Hudson says his constituency could also benefit from the Government’s new National Bus Strategy, which aims to reform the sector.
The strategy has been given £3bn in investment.
Under the National Bus Strategy, councils and operators will be expected to provide:
- Simpler single bus fares with daily price caps, so people can use the bus as many times a day as they need without facing mounting costs.
- More services in the evenings and at the weekends.
- Integrated services and ticketing across all transport modes in the area, so people can easily move from bus to train.
- Easy to access information, including online, so that services are simple to use.
- All buses to accept contactless payments.
Councils will also need to franchise services, as is the case in London, or establish statutory partnerships with operators – ensuring that they work in collaboration for the benefit of passengers. They will also be required to publish an improvement plan.
Such improvements will be underpinned by fundamental reforms to the sector and will see operators working with their local councils on targets for improving passenger numbers, reliability and passenger satisfaction, to be eligible for future Government funding.
Only councils and operators who work to meet these requirements will continue to receive the estimated £100 million per month in emergency COVID-19 funding across the whole sector, or any new sources of funding from the £3 billion investment.
Dr Hudson said: “Bus services are a lifeline to many who live in Penrith and the Border as they connect communities with one another and assist in unlocking the economic potential of our large geographical area.
“The £3 billion National Bus Strategy will help reduce fare prices, make services more reliable and increase the spread of the bus network.
“Since my election in December 2019, I have fought hard for improved transport links through my ‘Better Connectivity’ campaign.
“On bus services, I am really pleased the Government has listened, and it is essential that Cumbria County Council make full use of these Government funds that can then benefit our local services and assist in the fight against rural isolation.”
Barrow MP Simon Fell said: “Good bus services can have a transformational role in places like rural Furness, unlocking job opportunities, boosting local businesses, and supporting economic growth.
“I was pleased to lobby the Government in support of Cumbria County Council’s bid into the Rural Mobility Fund for Ulverston, and I am delighted that the Department has acknowledged the need for more rural transport solutions in this area of our community.
“This new National Strategy Bus Strategy, backed by £3 billion, will help make to make this a reality – paving the way for simpler fares, more reliable services, and better connections across every part of Furness.
“At the last general election, I stood on a manifesto that promised to level up and improve transport connections across every corner of Barrow and Furness, and this boost to our local bus services will help to deliver on that promise.”
Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland added: “It is so important that residents have the facility of a good, regular and cost-effective bus service which will allow access to family, friends, workplace, and leisure.
“The benefits of the £1.5m Rural Mobility Fund for Copeland will greatly improve connectivity and will be particularly felt by those residents who do not readily have access to a car.
“Additionally, car owners who do choose to use the bus service are also helping protect the environment by reducing car journeys and their subsequent carbon footprint.
“This is a highly positive and transformational government initiative which will have a huge impact on my rural constituents.”