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  • Gareth Davies

Smart Villages & Rural Public Transport. October 2020

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

The Smart Villages concept is catching on. Smart Villages are defined as communities in rural areas that use innovative solutions to improve their resilience, building on local strengths and opportunities. They rely on a participatory approach to develop and implement their strategy to improve their economic, social and/or environmental conditions, in particular by mobilising solutions offered by digital technologies. Smart Villages benefit from cooperation and alliances with other communities and actors in rural and urban areas. The initiation and the implementation of Smart Village strategies may build on existing initiatives and can be funded by a variety of public and private sources. (European Network for Rural Communities).

Can this be the start of a move from the macro to the micro in the way our villages and communities can develop a high degree of self-sustainability? Localism is clearly on the agenda and transport; particularly rural public transport is an important part of this. In their 2018 report The Future of Rural Bus Services in the UK, Better Transport stated: Today, a patchwork of different forms and types of public transport exist across rural areas, resulting from many different factors. There is no sense of network – services are run by different operators, little or no coordination between them, and a lack of integrated ticketing. However, there are needs to be met in rural areas and significant sums of public money are spent on providing transport in those areas, such as for school and patient transport services.

This report identified a number of key points: which can be summarised as:

  • Long term and consistent funding of rural public transport is necessary:.

  • Collaboration between a network of villages and communities can provide economies of scale which helps improve the viability of a rural network.

  • A range of different types of transport service operated by different types of provider are important in responding to local needs.

  • Current economic and operational experience indicates that inter urban services will form the backbone of rural bus networks.

  • Demand responsive and community services should dovetail into the longer distance routes at well planned rural interchanges providing an attractive comprehensive network.

The Smart Village network is already unrolling in Wales and Scotland and is being proposed for Shropshire. Surely Herefordshire can also benefit from the adoption of such a strategy in conjunction with rural transport initiatives. Work on developing, supporting and maintaining rural public transport is emerging as a matter of urgent priority in the context of climate change, decarbonisation of transport and the impact on rural isolation and deprivation.

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