Saturday, 5 June 2010

Remote Access - CAB review of access to public services in Cornwall

Imagine if you lived in Westminster, in the middle of London, but your nearest chemist was in Peckham - 5 miles away. Your nearest supermarket is in Muswell Hill and dentist is in Brent. Your nearest cinema is in Bromley and secondary school is in Richmond.

That's the situation if you live in Cornwall - where services are, on average, many miles away from where you live and are produced in an excellent report from Cornwall Citizens Advice Bureau.

Access to services depends on transport, whether public or private. In rural Cornwall however, many services require a private car to get to them, particularly in the north and east. Buses with frequencies of 1 to 11⁄2 hrs provide the majority of public transport. A quarter of villages have no bus service and in some areas 30% of households have no access to a car.

With the exception of journeys to Hospitals and Secondary Schools, public transport exceeded private transport costs in all cases.

The report also gives some case studies of people who have come to the CAB for advice and help. One such highlights the lack of a bus service between Bodmin and Launceston:

"An unemployed man accused of a criminal offence could not consult a criminal solicitor or appear at the Magistrates Court since these were in Bodmin. He was unable to drive and had no money. His court appearance was scheduled for 9:30 am which, was impossible for him to make since there is no direct public transport link from Launceston to Bodmin."

Public transport is generally infrequent and does not provide a service suitable for commuting. Less than 5% of journeys to work in Cornwall are made on public transport of any type.

The study then took 30 locations in Cornwall and looked at whether it was possible to get to a major hospital, county court or Jobcentre Plus for a 1 hour appointment (2 hrs for the hospital) and back home again by public transport:

Major Hospital. Of the 30 returns 9 journeys (30%) were impossible. A quarter of total journey times exceeded 6 hours 20 mins. In one case the return bus left before the person could have arrived at the appointment. A quarter of all total journey times involved walks of over 36 minutes for access and connections.

County Court. Of the 30 returns 10 journeys (33%) were impossible. 25% of one-way journeys exceeded 1hr 50 mins with 25% of total journey time exceeding 51⁄2 hours. In one case, a total return journey time of 8 hours included over 1hr 20min walking. In two cases the only option to reach the appointment would have been to travel the previous day.

Jobcentre Plus. From the 30 returns 7 journeys (23%) were impossible (no service or too late). 25% of total round trip journey times including return to home exceeded 4 hours maximum 6 hrs. In two cases the return bus left before the person had arrived at the appointment.

Another case study:

"A disabled man with no money contacted Jobcentre Plus (JC+) for help. They suggested the social fund but directed him to another JC+ (35 miles) to collect. He couldn’t get there, as he had no money. JC+ offered a travel warrant. Client walked 14 miles to JC+ & collected warrant only to find the JC+ he had to go to closed 30 minutes before any bus would arrive. JC+ were not sympathetic."

Cornwall Council is currently producing a major review of local transport in Cornwall. The CAB report provides a huge body of evidence which will feed into this review. The people of Cornwall - particularly those without access to a car - deserve better transport.

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