On Monday there were a series of answers relating to Transport type questions that came from Nusrat Ghani who is a Transport Ministers and also the MP for the location where I work. I work in Uckfield which is located at the end of a rail line from East Croydon that at one time went all the way into Lewes and if it was able to do so today would add a great deal of value to the many rural residents in that area, as well as adding value to the times when the Brighton to London rail line is under intense pressure. The questions covered a couple of themes that at one level have similar needs and yet have very different responses. The one relating to rural transport came from a DUP MP who asked “what steps [is the] Department taking to increase the provision of public transport in rural areas” and the response was as follows:
“The Government recognises the importance of public transport in rural areas. All local authorities in England have powers to subsidise socially necessary bus services. The Department provides £43 million per year to local authorities to support this. The Bus Services Act 2017 provides tools for local authorities to work more effectively with bus operators to improve bus services. A number of projects from the £11.5 million Building Connections Fund will provide new community transport links to support people at most risk of isolation. On rail, the Department’s Community Rail Development Strategy, published in Nov 2018, looks for ways to make it easier for the rail industry and local community rail partnerships to improve services and stations on local branch lines.”
Meanwhile on the same day Nus made a short statement regarding HS2 which was:
“I am today publishing the Statement of Reasons Command Paper for the High Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill. The Command Paper is titled the ‘Government overview of the case for HS2 Phase 2a and its environmental impacts’. This is required by Parliamentary Standing Order 224A to assist the House during the third reading of the High Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill. This document summarises the work that has already been done to assess, control and mitigate the environmental impacts of HS2 Phase 2a, and explains why the government continues to take the view that the HS2 Phase 2a project is worthy of its support.”
Now to be fair she did not refer to the precise number of Billions of pounds involved in the West Midlands to Crewe part of HS2. However we can be sure that the £43m a year and the £11.5m will look like loose change when it comes to measuring the budgets. Of course there are many more people who live in the West Midlands and Crewe than in Uckfield or even in Lewes, however across the nation as a whole there are millions of people trying to live in rural areas who would benefit from a more balanced approach to such budget decisions!