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Rural Accessibility





1.1 People living in rural areas not only have more constrained choices of opportunities but fewer travel choices and higher transport costs to reach them. Rural accessibility depends upon both the quality of the services and the travel options to reach these services. Most current public investment to improve rural accessibility is prioritised either on the basis of the spatial distribution of opportunities or on the availability of transport services. A more systematic approach to measuring rural accessibility could allow scarce public funding to be targeted more effectively at tackling accessibility problems ensuring that practical solutions are brought forward which will meet peoples' needs.

1.2 This project has assessed, using empirically based and tested accessibility measures, how transport derived social exclusion in rural areas can be evaluated. This report presents:

  • Survey and analysis findings, which help to provide a better understanding of rural accessibility and transport derived social exclusion.
  • Suggestions for a robust methodology for measuring accessibility in Scotland's rural areas which can be included in developing spatial information systems to inform future rural policy.
  • An appraisal framework to allow accessibility concepts to be used for evaluating options for investment in rural transport initiatives.

1.3 The project was undertaken by Derek Halden Consultancy in association with Aberdeen University and Scottish Agricultural College.

Approach to the project

1.4 This project was tackled in three stages as follows:

Stage 1 - Context and Review of Previous Work

  • Review existing evidence on the role of transport in social exclusion in Scotland.
  • Review innovation in rural transport and its role in addressing transport disadvantage
  • Review current methods for identifying the extent of transport related social exclusion in rural Scotland

Stage 2 - Surveys and Analysis

  • Investigate current and potential use of accessibility measurements in a rural context, including in relation to new rural transport initiatives.
  • Utilise relevant accessibility measures to assess the transport options available to a representative sample of dwellers in rural Scotland.
  • If possible calibrate accessibility measures by reference to data on expressed needs, and people's views on accessibility constraints.

Stage 3 - Recommendations

  • Recommend appropriate accessibility measures for use in future policy development, monitoring and evaluation.

Policy Context

1.5 National transport policy targets funding at rural transport through the rural transport funding initiative including:

  • The rural community transport grant scheme
  • Rural public passenger transport funding

1.6 Between 2001 and 2004, 16.8 million is being spent on these initiatives which represents a very significant percentage of the total expenditure on rural transport services in Scotland. The community transport grant scheme is administered nationally and the rural public transport funding is administered through local authorities.

1.7 The passenger transport funding allocation for each local authority is determined using simple criteria based on the demography of each area as follows:

  • A base allocation has been given to all Councils excluding the four major city Councils: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen. All other Council areas have at least some rural population.
  • The base allocation has then been augmented by a further amount determined on the share of Scotland's population within each relevant Council and the dispersal of the rural population in terms of distance from settlements of over 1000 people.

1.8 It is recognised at both national and local levels that for effective use to be made of these funds improved targeting of resources is needed including co-ordinated local rural transport strategies. A more accurate assessment of rural transport need would consider accessibility for each group in society and prioritise investment towards the public interventions which would achieve the greatest change in accessibility.

1.9 Rural transport need depends on many inter-dependent factors. Research (Shucksmith 2000) has shown that non car available households tend to live within settlements which offer access to basic services such as a shop or a post office. It has also been found that many who choose to live in more dispersed patterns are from higher mobility sectors of society.

1.10 Efficient targeting of transport investment to tackle socially excluded people in rural areas therefore needs to consider these social factors in addition to geographic and demographic influences from population density and transport network structure.

1.11 New approaches also need to build on current best practice for prioritisation of resources being adopted by local authorities and transport operators across the country.

1.12 In the allocation of the national community transport funding, community groups are required to make a case for funding and applications often include simple accessibility measures. Good practice in assessing community transport needs, involves surveys and analysis to determine accessibility problems and travel demand requirements. Applicants need to demonstrate how any new community transport service will complement existing provision.

1.13 Detailed surveys of the community are expensive and this can be an obstacle to the development of some potentially successful schemes. Fund assembly can be frustrating for community groups since the ease of attracting funding increases with the number of funding partners. Simple accessibility measures to demonstrate need could help to win initial support from funding partners. If a community were able to identify a need using accessibility analysis techniques then more of the investment in survey time could be devoted to joint working with the community on developing projects. This would not only ensure better targeting of funding but should help to ensure that the schemes which are funded are more successful.