Scotland’s rural communities often feel they are severely penalised through lack of a proper integrated transport infrastructure and affordability.
It is almost impossible to get around D&G by public transport. Try getting the ferry at Cairnryan on a Sunday. You can get a bus to Stranraer, train to AYR and then bus back to Cairnryan. Madness.
Rural communities are more reliant on private transport and expensive fuel costs, pay higher delivery charges, are unable to access essential services and our businesses and economy suffer as a result.
Rural communities need to be well connected to services through integrated and affordable transport.
Many public transport providers operate on a commercial basis and determine their own timetables and prices. However in rural areas transport operators are often subsidised and the local authority has a say over their timetable. There are an increasing number of community transport operators who fill in the gaps and provide vital services for rural communities.
Depending on whether an operator is commercial or subsidised depends on how rural communities can best influence their decision-making. At the moment it is often not clear to communities how timetabling, pricing and integration decisions are made.
The Scottish Rural Parliament Action Plan 2015-16
Objective 1: Improved communication between transport operators and with communities regarding transport developments and efforts to integrate timetables, with opportunities for communities to challenge changes to services.
We are seeking:
Commercial transport operators publish details of how they engage with other transport providers and with the communities they serve when designing or amending services.
Local authorities and bus service providers consult with communities when making changes to timetables.
Guidance is published by Scottish Government to encourage stronger engagement between transport operators and Local Transport Authorities and the communities that they serve when changes to services are proposed.
- Clarify the mechanisms through which Transport Scotland, local transport authorities and transport operators engage and communicate with rural communities. Publish these details to enable communities to influence service provision in their areas by 2016.
- Support and contribute to the implementation of new bus service registration arrangements designed to strengthen engagement between operators, local transport authorities and service users by Jan 2016.
Objective 2: Improved support for community transport initiatives.
We are seeking:
The new integrated health and social care partnerships should embed transport in their planning and develop a strategic approach to working with community transport operators in order to provide effective non-emergency transport.
Transport service commissioners should review transport contracting so that the quality of service provided has a higher weighting, include community benefit clauses where appropriate, and make the tender process proportionate for small community transport operators.
The Scottish Government should consider how the Scotland-wide bus concessionary fare scheme can best be amended to ensure users of community transport services can benefit from their entitlement to concessions.
- Issue a statement of support for the Community Transport Association UK in their pursuance of these objectives by Dec 2015.
- Work with partners to monitor and report to rural communities on how the new health and social care partnerships are addressing issues of access to services by October 2016.