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DfT sets out potential for innovation in rural transport

Peter Stonham
05 October 2023

 

The Department for Transport has published a new report aimed at helping local authorities to deploy new technology and innovation in rural transport.

This document suggests how innovative and emerging transport technologies could address some of the challenges in rural communities, highlighting the importance of transport to everyday life rural life. It sets out guiding principles for the introduction of new technologies and services.

Innovations considered include demand responsive services, shared mobility options, self- driving vehicles, drones and other ways of enhancing connectivity across rural areas.

The report expands The Future of Transport Principles, first published in 2019, that local government should follow to unlock the benefits of transport innovation in rural areas.

It sets out how the Government is providing funding and accelerating knowledge sharing to spur innovation including the DfT making up to £3 million of R&D funding available for innovation that tackles rural challenges. The Department is also inviting local leaders to collaborate on rural mobility to share and scale best practice.

The document looks at six dimensions of the rural transport challenge. Supporting rural communities sets out the challenges rural areas are facing and introduces several key definitions used.

Importance of Rural Roads for Everyday Journeys explores how critical the rural road network is and the importance of supporting motorists and other road users; Driving towards a Sustainable Future focuses on the steps to responsibly and pragmatically embrace zero emission vehicles in rural areas; Improving services & Providing Greater Choice considers the options for better services, looking at the importance of local buses and rail services for rural areas, and action to support these; Enabling Innovation in Rural Mobility explores emerging trends and innovation in transport that could transform rural mobility; Getting Rural Innovation Right establishes a set of future transport principles to guide how local authorities and transport operators can adapt services to better meet the needs of passengers; and What next for rural mobility? presents the Government’s next steps and plans for helping local authorities and others to embrace innovation in rural transport policy making.

The document is primarily aimed at local authorities, but transport operators, businesses and people living in rural areas will also find it helpful, says DfT.

It follows a 2020 call for evidence to understand the transport needs of rural areas to which 736 responses were received from individuals and organisations, including local authorities, trade associations and transport operators.

A number of issues were frequently raised, which this document addresses. The DfT says these include poor access to services in rural areas; a lack of genuine choice for completing journeys; heightened loneliness and isolation; and commercial challenges for operators due to long distances and sparse populations.

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