§ 27. Mr. Mitchell
asked the Minister of Transport what steps he will now take to help the maintenance and expansion of rural bus services.
§ Mr. Tom Fraser
The reports of the local inquiries and experiments which were undertaken in selected areas of England and Wales will be published early next week.
As I have previously announced, I intend to discuss the results with the local authorities' and bus operators' Associations.
The inquiries and experiments have shown a number of interesting results and possibilities, which will be worth exploring further. They point to the conclusion, however, that the financial problems of providing bus services in rural areas cannot be dealt with in isolation from the general problems arising throughout the country of maintaining efficient public transport services.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman is going to publish the reports. Three months ago, in reply to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills), he said that he would do so very soon. In reviewing this matter, will he give very careful consideration to the possibility of using school buses which often go with vacant seats through rural areas which sadly lack transport for the carrying of fare-paying passengers?
§ Mr. Fraser
This is one of the matters dealt with in the reports to which I shall have to give consideration, particularly in consultation with the local authorities.
§ Mr. Snow
Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us who represent rural areas do not very much like the sound of his answer? Unless he is very careful, he will run into the same danger of the delay in dealing with rural transport which we experienced for 13 years on the part of the Conservative Party. Is he aware that if there are financial difficulties, they must be faced up to, especially in the overspill areas where there is a substantial traffic increase potential?
§ Mr. Fraser
I think that my hon. Friend would, however, wish us to give proper consideration to the reports made following these local inquiries and experiments. I should have thought, too, that hon. Members in all parts of the House would want to read what is contained in those reports before they start jumping to conclusions about what we should do in implementation or otherwise of any recommendations contained therein.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
Is the Minister in touch with the Postmaster-General who, as he may have heard, is engaged in experiments and research into the possibility of co-ordinating rural services with postal services in certain areas where people are so scattered that it would be totally uneconomic to run an actual bus service?
§ Mr. Fraser
I am in touch with a great many of my right hon. Friends who have responsibilities for services in the rural areas, with a view to seeing if we can co-ordinate services to make them more economic, and in some cases to run them more efficiently.