Transport should be treated as an essential service and regulated by government to provide an adequate service to people in rural areas, a top UN official has said.
Following his visit to the UK, Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights published a report that looked at the effects of austerity.
Prof Alston also commented on the importance of good transport links. He said: ‘Rural dwellers are particularly impacted by cuts to transportation and public services, are at a higher risk of loneliness and isolation, and often face higher fuel costs.
‘Without adequate access to transportation, people can’t get to work even when they are able to get a job. One person told me that it was easier for her to go to find a job by going to another city and staying with friends there than it would have been to find a job at home without public transportation.’
Prof Alston concluded: ‘Transport, especially in rural areas, should be considered an essential service, equivalent to water and electricity, and the government should regulate the sector to the extent necessary to ensure that people living in rural areas are adequately served.
He added: ‘Abandoning people to the private market in relation to a service that affects every dimension of their basic wellbeing is incompatible with human rights requirements.’
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: ‘We are working closely with public transport providers and councils to ensure that rural communities have access to the services they need.
‘We're investing more than £48bn into our railways to cut journey times, increase service frequency and introduce new trains. We are also giving councils extra powers to work with bus companies to improve services, and we are investing more in improving our roads than ever before.’