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Liberal Democrats call for new ideas on rural public transport

February 8, 2019 9:46 AM

It's often the case that once the majority of the public gives up on a public service, it becomes a 'like it or lump it' situation for those who have no other option. And public transport is no exception.

Since coming to power in 2016, the Conservative-controlled county council has cut bus transport bit by bit. They've ticked the boxes to make sure they've carried out 'consultations' but these have only talked to the remaining few passengers.

It's death by a thousand cuts - and yet it doesn't have to be like this.

Wouldn't it be incredible if autonomous electric vehicles became mainstream before Norfolk managed to sort out public transport using what's currently available? Technology means there are so many alternative options for public transport - but with the very idea of public transport suffering from death by a thousand cuts, Norfolk doesn't stand a chance under the current County hall administration.

Except it might: as part of their budget amendments, the Liberal Democrats are proposing a new £500k public transport innovation fund to encourage organisations to come up with new ways to improve public transport in the rural areas.

Liberal Democrat County Councillor Steff Aquarone says, "The Tories consider Norfolk a car county but this totally misses the point. Aside from the fact that 70,000 households in Norfolk don't own a car, an innovative public transport system could transform Norfolk's economy for everyone - workers, car owners, and tourists alike! It just needs a bit of creativity, an appetite for innovation, and a small amount of money to pilot new ideas."

Studies across the world have shown that improving public transport increases the economic productivity and development of that area. An American study showed that there is a $4 economic return to a community for every $1 invested in public transportation.

Public transport provides a lifeline for rural communities and we want everyone to have the opportunity to get to work, the GP or their place of education but at the moment in parts of Norfolk that is impossible under the current network.

Age UK found that 40% of people aged 60 or over use local bus services at least once a week, and around a quarter of these journeys are for medical appointments. Cuts to rural bus services severely inhibited their ability to socialise and participate in community life, limited their access to healthcare and left them significantly poorer owing to the higher costs of alternative forms of transport.

The Liberal Democrats want to encourage everyone to come up with new ideas for improving the local public transport system, whether that means for a local community or a wider area of need like a main route that's currently badly served outside of commuter times. The fund would be used to help start up these ideas and get them running as well as to incentivise those with good ideas to bring them to the Council to try.

We are calling on Norfolk Tories to agree to the creation of this new fund. Let's get all of Norfolk mobile!

Steffan Aquarone

Steff Aquarone