More than 3 million people in the north of England are at risk of social exclusion as a result of poor transport services, research has found.
A fifth of people living in northern England are prevented from participating in the opportunities and communities around them because of poor mobility and connectivity, according to the report by the devolved government agency Transport for the North (TfN).
TfN, in conjunction with Social Research Associates and Temple, spoke to more than 3,000 members of the public and experts from across the north to understand the effects of the transport system on everyday life.
Interviewees spoke about having to get taxis to work – which sometimes cost as much as they earned – as a consequence of unreliable public transport services; having to give themselves a buffer of an hour for everyday journeys because of erratic services; and missing important medical appointments when services failed to turn up, with the result that they were sent to the back of the queue for treatment.
One participant in County Durham said: “I was called out several times recently to rescue my 80-year-old mother from the bus stop when the service was cancelled without warning or offer of help.”
Another, based in Gateshead, said: “There’s only one bus an hour and it didn’t turn up. The children were cold and hungry and we had no idea what was going to happen.”
A Northumberland schoolchild told researchers: “It takes two or three buses to get to school and it takes ages. It also means I can’t stay on for after-school activities and also reduced my choice for A-levels.”
Lord Patrick McLoughlin, the chair of TfN, said: “Over one in five people in the north are at risk of exclusion because of the limitations of transport options in their community. That is millions of people, many of whom are those with specific needs who rely on public transport to get to work, to go to medical appointments or to just see friends and family. This issue is holding the region back and must be addressed if we are to achieve our full potential.
“This report shows the level of commitment that we need to see if the levelling-up agenda is to come to fruition. We need to see significant investment in local public transport across the north of England to ensure that those people who really need a working transport system will get it.”