HC Deb 29 July 1964 vol 699 cc316-7W
73. Mr. Speir

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make a statement on Government proposals for solving the rural bus problem.

Mr. Marples

I announced on 11th March plans to conduct practical experiments in selected rural areas. Their nature would be settled by local consultations which I described then and in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend on 22nd June. There are four selected areas—in Lincolnshire, Westmorland, Northamptonshire and Montgomeryshire—and we are discussing the County Councils Association's suggestion for a fifth.

The local teams were impressed with the need to get practical experiments going quickly. But they found that the initial stage of pinpointing the real local needs involved a lot of work.

The Lincolnshire team have now proposed a number of experiments for a three months' trial. All consist of additional or improved bus services, to be operated by the Lincolnshire Road Car Company, subject to the necessary licences being granted by the Traffic Commissioners.

They include a new daily return service from villages in the survey area to Louth. This depends on the Lindsey County Council and my Department guaranteeing to make good any small deficit below a specified level of receipts during the three months. I understand that the County Council are ready to guarantee half of this, and I am prepared to guarantee the other half. Parliament will in due course be asked to vote the necessary funds in a Supplementary Estimate.

The Lincolnshire team are continuing their studies, including longer term aspects. In the meantime I hope the other teams will soon be able to submit interim recommendations. It will of course be necessary to give the experiments a long enough trial to gain experience and assess the results. Only then shall we be able finally to decide our policy.