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Bus Services: Isolated Communities

Volume 697: debated on Thursday 24 June 2021

What recent steps the Government have taken to increase local authority powers to deliver regular bus services to isolated communities. (901761)

The national bus strategy, which draws on £3 billion of transformational funding, sets out the Government’s vision for bus services across England, including in isolated communities, and we believe that those bus service improvement plans, delivered through enhanced partnerships and franchising arrangements, will deliver what is needed. Alongside this, we have announced 17 successful rural mobility fund bids, each receiving a share of £20 million funding to trial innovative bookable minibuses where demand is more dispersed.

Since 2010, 134 million miles of bus routes have been lost and bus coverage in Britain is the lowest it has been in 30 years. In villages such as Pittington and Waterhouses in my constituency, bus services are virtually non-existent. Can the Minister confirm whether the national bus strategy’s bus service improvement plan will give local authorities enough power and resources to deliver regular bus services to communities on routes that may not be commercially viable?

The hon. Lady has put her finger on the entire purpose of the Bus Back Better strategy, which is about ensuring better, cleaner, safer and more reliable buses with simpler fares and ticketing. It is absolutely what communities such as hers and others all over the country want. The Government are supporting local authorities through funding and we have set aside £25 million to help to build the capacity and capabilities of local authorities. Every local transport authority has received £100,000 in capacity support to enable them to submit bids for the funding and get those bus services back.