A paper published by Bus Users UK argues that changing lifestyles, flexible working, funding cuts and the regulatory environment are forcing rural bus services into decline.

Available at bususers.org, Rural Buses: Reversing the Decline highlights that, in rural areas in particular, buses have provided a lifeline to education opportunities, employment, health care and social services.

Over the past two decades, however, these services have experienced what Bus Users UK calls a perfect storm of rising operational costs, increasing regulation (particularly for community transport providers) funding cuts from local authorities and a lack of competition to run services.

The report calls for:

  • reform of the Traffic Commissioners to have regard for the interests of bus users

  • modernisation of the role of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to make it more accessible and user-friendly

  • a trial for new models of rural bus provision built on community interest or co-operative principles with all regulations suspended for the duration of the trial, with the exception of safety regulations

  • local authorities to take a more consumer-led approach to transport

  • local partnership working to be a requirement between local authorities and bus operators.

According to Chief Executive of Bus Users UK Claire Walters: “Creative and innovative solutions to the rural transport crisis are urgently needed, but will only be possible with reform of the bodies and the regulatory environment that govern it.”

She explained that the report sets out a 10-point plan to regenerate the industry and ensure that rural transport meets the needs of local communities.

Last reviewed 4 July 2019