On Monday, 25th September at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth, Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, passed a motion enshrining a number of measures supporting rural bus networks into official Liberal Democrat policy.
The motion would give local authorities greater powers and resources to franchise bus services, and support the development of innovative rural schemes for bus services.
It comes as many rural services in rural North East Somerset have been pared back by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) Mayor, leaving up to 40,000 people without reliable public transport to education, work, healthcare appointments and more.
Fiona Gourley, B&NES Lib Dem Councillor and Member Advocate for Rural Communities, said: "We have had vulnerable residents ringing in tears because they have lost their independence. We have set up a petition to urge the WECA Mayor to allocate funding to support regular rural transport services, but he has instead chosen to spend £4m on a new paint job for our buses. What use is a freshly painted bus that doesn’t turn up?”
Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath and LIberal Democrat Spokesperson for Transport, commented: “I am saddened to note that almost a quarter of bus routes outside London have been cut in the last ten years. Reliable bus services are a lifeline for rural communities. They are also affordable. Compared to trains or trams, buses require minimal infrastructure investment.
“The WECA Mayor has spent millions of pounds on frivolities like free birthday buses and paint jobs while cutting the number of routes serving the countryside around my own constituency of Bath. That is why the Liberal Democrats support reliable, affordable bus services that actually take note of the community’s needs.”