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Rural Areas (Transport)

Volume 35: debated on Wednesday 19 January 1983

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5.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to improve public transport in rural areas.

I shall continue to encourage county councils to use their transport co-ordinating and revenue support powers judiciously. I shall also continue to encourage small private operators, which can sometimes provide services which larger operators find no longer economic, and the development of less conventional modes of transport.

Is the Minister aware that in some rural areas, such as Northumberland, increasing efforts have been made to co-ordinate rail and other forms of transport to provide a network of rural services, including having post buses meeting trains? Will not all those efforts be entirely destroyed if major railway lines, such as those between Newcastle and Edinburgh and Newcastle and Carlisle, are closed?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber earlier when I made it clear that wild, speculative statements had been made about the railway system. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will deal with aspects of the Serpell report in reply to a later question.

Will my hon. Friend, for the encouragement of others, publish information about the participation of private operators for the benefit of rural areas, including Essex and Epping Forest?

My hon. Friend makes a good suggestion. My Department is extremely active in encouraging county councils to consider various modes of unconventional transport arrangements to assist in dealing with problems in rural areas. We shall give serious consideration to my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Can the Minister give information about one rural area—Suffolk? What is the result of the Department's opinion on the inquiry into the western section of the Ipswich bypass? Will there be an announcement in the near future?

That is a road matter for which my hon. Friend is responsible. She will write to the hon. Gentleman.