Last week in the House of Commons, a Sussex MP Andrew Griffith asked a question regarding transport in rural settings and he got a response that clearly needs people like Andrew and his neighbouring MPs to work together and much more importantly to do so with residents from across the area. The challenge for rural transport is that the Government does not appear to be really serious about its involvement based on the sums they are referring to. However they are claiming that they want contributions to help direct them in the future and so this should set Sussex MPs into a place to begin to work together. Of course this is not unique to Sussex and indeed this photograph makes it clear that there are solutions being achieved in other parts of the UK such as in Scotland. However we need the same sort of radical solutions for Sussex and the travelling from rural Sussex into urban Sussex and from urban Sussex into rural Sussex is part of the challenge which is why we need all Sussex MPs to participate in this. Anyway back to the question and answer from Andrew to Rachel Maclean who is the Parliamentary under Secretary in the Department for Transport. So she responded to this question directed to Grant Shapps.
AG: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps his Department is taking to improve access to bus services in rural areas across West Sussex.
Although Andrew asked about it for West Sussex, there are some very clear reasons why the links to East Sussex, Brighton and Hove and indeed to other locations are all vital.
RM: The Government is committed to improving access to transport in rural areas.
The Government pays almost £260 million per year in Bus Service Operators Grant, which benefits passengers by helping operators keep fares down, and enabling operators to run services that might otherwise be unprofitable and could lead to cancellation, particularly in rural areas.
There is currently a ‘Call for Evidence’ open to seek ideas on what we could include within a Future of Transport Rural Strategy. Views are being sought on: trends in rural areas, opportunities from innovation for rural areas and the approach government could take to help shape these opportunities.
We are also developing a National Bus Strategy for England, which will focus on the needs of passengers so that more people have access to bus services that meet their needs. The Government recognises the importance of good transport links for the sustainability and independence of communities, particularly in rural areas, and the Strategy will set out how national and local government, and the private sector will come together to support this.
So there is a call for evidence Andrew Griffith and that is something that agencies such as Action in Rural Sussex and groups like the Alliance of British Drivers in Sussex and Network Rail should be working with you and your neighbouring MPs to help provide local residents with a meaningful level of support for the future.