With over 12 million people living in rural communities, these communities contribute significantly to the economy. Nevertheless, rural areas have historically suffered as our major cities have taken advantage of more straightforward, safer, and cheaper transportation and mobility.
The overwhelming majority of people living in rural communities have seen limitations in the availability of essential services such as transportation services, forcing them to rely on their automobiles and saddling them with the costs and inconveniences accompanying them.
The ability and the ease of accessing jobs, education, services, society, and everything else that makes up a person’s existence is known as “mobility,” and it is a fundamental freedom. The other way round, you can say that mobility is a critical component for any society, particularly rural communities where numerous necessities are dispersed over a wide area. In addition, offering more environmentally friendly transportation options can significantly help in climate change mitigation.
However, policymakers have not focused much on rural mobility as they focus on urban mobility, and there is a significant shortage of traditional transportation and the different forms of shared mobility implemented in many urban regions. Many rural communities have few buses, fewer train stations, and a near-total reliance on automobiles.
Without a car, accessing social contact, leisure activities, education, and healthcare can be difficult. Thus, the rural population is deprived of essential services that promote an individual’s professional and personal growth. Among these services, education, healthcare, and transportation are some basic services; having access to them is a preliminary right of a UK citizen.
What Needs to be Done?
- Understanding The Needs of Rural Communities
It is critical to develop this understanding that rural towns have different needs and desires to be connected to neighbouring areas in various ways. Therefore, using the sample urban mobility solutions in rural communities won’t be helpful.
We must assess the needs of all the members of our communities, considering their life phases and how they live there. We must also consider the places that support our communities, homes, businesses, medical facilities, shops, and other facilities and obtain life’s essential services physically and digitally while aiming to achieve net zero energy emissions.
- Integration of Advanced Technology
Technology will significantly alter how we travel within the next ten years, considerably affecting consumers and enterprises. New forms of transportation and corporate operations are being developed due to electrification, connectivity, automation, and real-time data collection and analysis. The regeneration and growth of rural areas depend upon how much connectivity and ease of access to social and economic infrastructure are given to the rural population.
Technology has enabled us to perform things in much quicker ways. Online classes, thousands of courses, online jobs and job hunting, modern transportation, etc., are all the perks of modern technology that have enabled us to acquire an education and become respected individuals who can effectively contribute to the country’s economy. However, integrating this same modern technology requires being in rural communities so that the rural population can operate at the same level.
Due to the availability of these resources in urban areas, the urban population actively boosts society’s economic and mental well-being. The availability of the same resources in rural areas can drive the same results and thus result in rapid rural regeneration growth.
The Future of Transport Programme
The government’s Future of Transport programme intends to maintain the UK’s status as a global innovator by building a cleaner and more inclusive transportation system for all of us in the future. Innovative technologies could revolutionise transportation within towns, villages, and more remote areas—enabling people to access work, education, and health care more conveniently. It might also help in rural areas, where those without cars frequently lose out on social opportunities.
However, these reforms won’t materialise unless businesses, government, and local communities work together. Additionally, it should ensure that all people residing in villages, towns, and more remote areas can use the new transportation technologies.
A Pioneering Approach to Rural Mobility
Rural mobility should also be approached from a similar, outcome-focused perspective—including current, emerging, and digital modes and affiliated energy needs (in a decarbonising world)—when considering building sustainable, happy and healthy, constructive, constructive, prosperous, and safer environments for rural communities.
The following strategies can be used to achieve thriving rural communities in the UK:
- Enhance rural communities’ social and community infrastructure to expand daily opportunities for their diverse populations rather than relying on individual settlements to meet their needs.
- Public, third, and community sector partnerships are used to localise the social infrastructure layer to expand fixed, mobile, and human resources.
- Increasing access to the next layer of services unavailable within those community clusters is possible through improved connectivity to local market towns and cities.
It is at the heart of the concept to envision rural communities as a network of facilities beyond their parts. By doing so, we reduce the need to travel long distances for essential services and opportunities and improve links to economic centres. In addition, making our rural areas more appealing could counteract the exodus of young people from these areas, increase chances for established communities, and stabilise local economies.
What Type of Mobility Could a Smart Village Possibly Have?
Plans for a “Smart Mobility Village” may include many complementing elements that are all tailored to the local environment and coordinated under the same “framework”:
- The availability of demand-responsive transportation options and carpooling provided by a single unit/point of coordination overseeing the transportation needs of various (small) communities.
- Traditional public transportation routes operate primarily during peak hours, with stops and frequencies determined by the local community’s needs.
- Minor hubs/interchange points near major bus stops or train stations that offer various bike/car sharing services and have payment systems and information on multimodal travel.
- Providing additional community mobility at minimal cost with the help of local retired people and others working voluntarily as drivers. Several rural areas are also exploring combining electric vehicles with renewable energy sources.
We must evaluate the needs of everyone in our communities while considering their stage of life and the environment they inhabit. To attain net zero energy emissions, we must also consider the locations that house our communities, including our homes, workplaces, retail locations, and other facilities, as well as the locations where we access both physical and digital versions of life’s necessities. Rural communities have distinct demands and environments from metropolitan ones, so the mobility paradigm employed in urban regions cannot be implemented there.
Innovative transportation methods could revolutionise life in towns, villages, and more rural regions, making it easier for people to get to jobs, schools, and medical treatment. It might also be beneficial in rural places where people without cars regularly miss out on social opportunities.