Speaking at a recent Tourism Society conference, Countryside Agency chief executive Richard Wakeford stressed the benefits that better public transport brings to the countryside. Citing both the Cotswold Link and the Purbeck Link Rider service in Dorset as good examples, he said 'On the one hand, country buses facilitate access to towns and services for people living in rural areas, so they can reach the doctor, visit friends, go shopping, attend college or have a meal out - all things that they can't do in their own village. But the same bus can also bring townspeople and tourists out to enjoy the countryside, with benefits to both rural tourism and the local economy, as visitors spend money in the village shop, go for a walk, buy fresh produce from the farm gate and explore local attractions.'
Both these new routes received funding from Countryside Agency transport grant schemes. Mr Wakeford said: 'Our integrated transport approaches, in area-based initiatives using DETR and highway authority funding, can show how the needs of local people, tourists and businesses can be met.
'We have money available to help new and innovative transport schemes. And we can pilot new approaches to providing high quality services and information to give people the confidence to use public transport.
The Rural Transport Development Fund, established in 1986, can offer capital grants, including vehicles for new services. The newer Rural Transport Partnership scheme operates through establishing local partnerships to take a wider perspective of the transport needs of their particular area. To date, 27 new partnerships have been established in the first few months, each with an officer appointed to devise an action plan setting out proposed improvements in transport facilities.