HC Deb 27 July 1971 vol 822 cc65-6W
Sir E. Brown

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to announce the results of the Government's two pilot studies into rural bus requirements; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peyton

Today; and copies of the reports will be available in the Vote Office. They represent a further instalment of the Government's comprehensive approach to the country's transport problems.

The two studies disclose a similar pattern despite the geographical differences. Increasing car ownership means that more transport is available than ever. The decline in public transport in the countryside does present serious problems for some, particularly the elderly, housewives and the young.

Four main points emerge from the studies: (i) There is still a role for the bus in rural areas but it is a limited one. If unprofitable bus services are to be kept in being they will need to be supported by local authorities under the rural bus grant scheme. (ii) There is some scope for minibuses; much less for postal buses. (iii) Where the demand does not warrant a bus service it should be possible to make wider use of the motor car. (iv) Local authorities particularly county councils which are already concerned through rural bus grants and such matters as school transport have a considerable part to play.

In a circular sent out today I have underlined particularly the need to support bus services where the demand warrants it and to examine all possible ways of promoting the wider use of the motor car in the thinly populated areas.

The Government will contribute a sub stantial part of the local authorities expenditure. My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of States for Scotland and Wales and I will consider means of helping as appropriate. I shall also be announcing shortly proposals for revising the licensing system which will be particularly aimed at helping rural areas.