Reinvigorating rural mobility

Helping rural communities get to where they need to go.

There is little doubt that rural areas have fallen behind their urban counterparts when it comes to transport and mobility. In a nation where ‘levelling up’ has been proclaimed as one of the leading ambitions of Government, this rural-urban divide needs to be both acknowledged and addressed – whether in a city, town or hamlet, poor connectivity should not hold communities back from a happy and successful future.

Midlands Connect played its role in identifying the scale of the problem – we commissioned studies that showed a gap in productivity, transport poverty and social mobility, fuelled by patchy transport. However, we also recognised the need to support rural communities by addressing challenges directly – giving the opportunity for tangible change. We kick-started this process by designing a competition that would bring together the public and private sectors, sparking new ideas and innovation that could serve rural communities and tackle rural connectivity head-on.

The competition asked businesses to present new ideas that could help solve the social, environmental, and economic issues caused by poor connectivity in rural areas. We also asked that solutions be scalable at both a regional and national level. The winning solution, announced at our Rural Mobility Conference in June, was a digital platform that would initially encourage Electric Vehicle (EV) usage, car sharing and support people who do not own their own vehicle.

The winning solution was an online platform that will allow EV users across Derbyshire to ‘rent out’ their private charge points, giving motorists access to more chargers to power up their vehicles. The platform will also encourage car sharing by providing opportunities for people to rent out their cars when they’re not using them, meaning that residents without their own private vehicle can get around more easily.

The solution was put forward by Derbyshire County Council in partnership with Cenex, Karshare and Co Charger. The pilot will be delivered over two years across Derbyshire and we hope to expand the platform over time to include other services that will encourage improved mobility. 

We believe that delivering this pilot will bring us one step closer to addressing the unquestionable rural mobility issues experienced in both the Midlands and nationally. The pilot will provide us with crucial information on how people in rural areas travel, which could be used to inform future solutions tackling rural mobility.

While awareness of rural inequalities is spreading throughout society and within Government, we must now focus our attention on creating solutions that make tangible changes to rural communities across the Midlands and beyond. We hope that our pilot scheme is the first step towards realising those changes.

Steven Scarrott is Principal Transport Planner at Midlands Connect.

The article was first published by the Rural Services Network and can be found here.