By Weston Kirton
After a long campaign, celebrating the inclusion once again of a stop at Taumarunui by the Northern Explorer. Credit: Paul Wheatcroft
Reliable, affordable, public transport solutions are crucial for the wellbeing of rural communities. Unlike urban areas where multiple modes of transportation are readily available, rural areas often have limited or no access to buses, trains, or other forms of public transit. This lack of options can result in significant difficulties for individuals who rely on public transportation as their primary means of travel. Furthermore, the long travel distances characteristic of rural areas poses additional obstacles for those without access to private vehicles.
The tracks are there but the trains are missing in many regions. Credit James Llewellyn
Limited or non-existent public transportation options make it difficult to access employment opportunities, educational institutions, medical facilities, and social services. These challenges not only affect individuals but also impact the overall development and sustainability of these communities. Understanding the importance of reliable public transport in rural areas is crucial to bridging these gaps and fostering inclusive communities.
The trains do stop but are infrequent and expensive. Credit: Paul Wheatcroft
Successive governments have stated their belief that building successful and more resilient regions is the key to building a prosperous nation. This has seen the funding of regional development programmes to identify and unlock the big economic opportunities. A key enabler critical to the realization of these opportunities is the need for the infrastructure to connect people, goods, services, and markets. Reliable public transport is a critical part of this infrastructure that is often overlooked.
Moreover, reliable public transport plays a critical role in sustainable development efforts. By providing viable alternatives to private vehicles, it helps reduce traffic congestion, lower carbon emissions, and mitigate environmental impacts associated with individual car ownership. It also contributes to economic growth by facilitating commuting for work purposes and enabling businesses to reach wider markets.
Good quality, affordable, trains and coaches are important in providing rural public transport networks
The need for reliable public transport in rural areas goes beyond mere convenience; it is a matter of equity and social justice. Accessible transportation ensures that everyone has equal opportunities to participate fully in society regardless of their geographical location. It promotes social cohesion by connecting individuals with essential resources, fostering community engagement, and reducing isolation.
Addressing rural public transport challenges requires innovative solutions that take into account the unique needs and circumstances of rural communities. It involves investing in infrastructure development that improves connectivity while considering cost-effective approaches that optimize resources. Furthermore, enhancing public transportation infrastructure can unlock economic potential by connecting rural communities with urban centers.
Trains carrying bikes in Europe. An ideal way to reach Ohakune to enjoy the many bike trails. Credit: Anthony Cross
By recognizing and addressing the unique challenges faced by rural communities in accessing public transportation, we can work towards creating inclusive solutions that enhance mobility options and improve quality of life for all residents regardless of their geographic location. Government policies and funding play a crucial role in addressing the public transport issues faced by rural communities.
Policymakers need to be working towards creating inclusive transportation systems that benefit all members of society regardless of their geographic location. By implementing comprehensive policies and allocating adequate funding, governments can address public transport issues effectively in rural communities. This not only enhances connectivity but also contributes to economic development, social inclusion, and overall well-being of these regions.
Weston Kirton is the Mayor of Ruapehu District Council
Grace Burnard, Head Girl and Joshua Simons, Head Boy, Ruapehu College and Corbin O'Shannessey, Head Boy, Taumarunui High School who presented at The Future is Rail Conference. Credit: Richard Young.