The Department for Transport has launched a groundbreaking multi-million pound scheme to pilot ‘total transport’ solutions in rural and isolated communities.
Local authorities are invited to bid for a share of £4m to help trial new cross-sector approaches to the delivery of supported public road passenger transport services – preferably in partnership with bodies such as such as clinical commissioning groups, further education colleges, hospital trusts and universities.
In guidance to bidders, DfT officials admit that ‘service integration has not been attempted on any scale up to now, so the essential first step is for local authorities to work out how to go about it’.
The pilots will fund the administrative cost of undertaking feasibility studies and other groundwork, once this work is complete winners will be required to submit a detailed plan to DfT for delivering that integration. Winning bidders will also be given the chance to present the outcomes to central government to help ‘inform the way forward’ on transport policy.
Unveiling the cash Baroness Kramer said: ‘It is common sense that we ensure that those rural and isolated areas have vital transport services that meet the needs of local communities. We must ensure every penny is being used to get local people to hospitals, schools, towns and shops.
‘That is why we are allocating £4m funding to help identify and coordinate all the available transport resources open to the local community, maximising their use and delivering better transport services and wider benefits to local people.’
Bids that demonstrate a clear strategic fit with wider government policies and those covering a wide range of services and or passenger groups will be scored highly.
Open to county councils, integrated transport authorities, and unitary and combined authorities that provide public road passenger transport services, bidders are only eligible if they have at least 26% of residents living in rural areas.
Martin Abrams, public transport campaigner for the Campaign for Better Transport said: ‘Total transport offers a better way of understanding the value that good public transport brings to a community.
‘As our recent Buses in Crisis report set out, pooling the resources and expertise for local buses with other transport needs like bespoke transport for schools and hospitals should mean buses are better resourced and networks are more joined up. All communities would benefit from such an approach and we hope these pilots are the first stage in total transport being rolled out more widely.’
The closing date for bids is the 11 February 2015, with winners announced in March 2015. Projects should last no longer than two years but extensions may be available.