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Public Transport: Rural Areas

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 22 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his policy is on improving public transport in rural areas; and if he will make a statement. (125973)

Local and central Government support for local bus services is now around £2½ billion a year. This total includes rural bus subsidy grant (RBSG) specifically to support rural bus services. Since RBSG's introduction in 1998, a total of over £440 million has now been allocated to authorities by means of this grant.

In addition, a total of £110 million has been awarded to authorities successful in rural bus challenge (RBC) competitions held from 1998 to 2003 to encourage innovative solutions to meeting rural transport needs. Many of the 300 projects initially supported by RBC funding are now continuing with mainstream funding from local authorities and other sources.

We have also changed the route registration rules to encourage flexibly routed, demand-responsive bus services and made these services eligible for bus service operators grant (BSOG) from the Department.

Our bus policy document ‘Putting Passengers First’, published in December, includes a range of proposals which we are now taking forward to improve bus and community transport services in rural and urban areas.

We have also implemented the community rail policy on many rural routes, particularly branch lines. In recent years, some lines have seen patronage increase by over 150 per cent. as community rail principles are implemented.