16 January 2008

The other day Colin Breed, the Liberal Democrat MP for Southeast Cornwall, initiated an important short debate about the transport problems of post-16 students in his and other rural constituencies. Read it in Hansard 14 January 2008, column 762 onwards.

Breed made a very telling case for more equality of access to further education for rural students in Cornwall, what that meant and the part public transport and its costs play in it. Discussing the practicalities he wittily said, “Waiting for buses is often seen as an act of faith.” While he spoke in detail about his constituency, he also sensibly included rural areas generally.

Of course life in a rural area has it ups and downs and public transport is one of the downs. It is impossibly uneconomic to provide public transport in rural England approaching the level found in large urban areas; and how far government should tax people in cities to subsidise chosen life in villages is debatable. I don’t think the urban/rural playing field can ever be level; both have desirable and undesirable points and the desiderata vary from person to person but on the whole it is not further education students who have chosen one place to live rather than the other. Whether free public transport for students in rural areas is economic is an issue to be considered; I hope it proves viable.

The government response to Colin Breed was large but somewhat vague on promises. We shall see.

I hope that this is an issue which all those concerned with life in Cornwall will engage with. We shall see.