Shropshire Star comment: Better buses could avoid a lot of hassle
At a time we are constantly being told about the importance of using public transport, it is disappointing to see such a large fall in the number of people using the buses.
In the 12 months up until March last year, the number of bus journeys in Shropshire fell from 8.9 million to 8.2 million, a drop of nearly 7.9 per cent.
In part, this is the consequence of living in an increasingly affluent society, where almost every household has at least one private car, and where those with two or three cars are nothing out of the ordinary.
But while a society in which everybody has access to a car brings with it many benefits, it also brings with it real problems.
How will the county’s roads, many of which are very narrow and not designed for heavy traffic going to cope with the extra vehicles? Where are they to be parked?
- Bus journeys down by 700,000 across Shropshire
- Shropshire buses: Look at how Swiss roll, says professor
Of course motorists will, quite rightly, point out that they have little choice but to use their car given the patchy nature of public transport in our vast and sparsely populated county. It doesn’t help, either, that central and local government funding for bus services has been cut.
The Foundation for Integrated Transport says it is a combination of under-investment and a lack of co-ordination which has led to Shropshire becoming a county almost totally dependent on the car.
It suggests that Shropshire Council should take control of the management of bus services in the county, taking advantage of powers that have been used in Cornwall.
Whether extra money can be found in these days of austerity remains to be seen, but certainly the Foundation’s proposals for better co-ordinating different services are worth looking at.
For example, it seems simple common sense that buses times should be tailored to meet destination and arrival times for railway services. And why can’t people buy their bus and train tickets at the same time from one place when planning a journey?
Shropshire Council may feel it has got enough problems on its plate at the moment. But if it can find a way of making it easier for people to travel by bus and train now, it could well save itself a whole lot of problems further down the line.