A BARNSLEY MP has highlighted the problems of local bus services in Parliament – calling the post-pandemic environment a ‘perfect storm’ for transport in rural areas.

Miriam Cates, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, said a number of residents have been in touch to discuss the problems they are facing in Penistone and Dodworth.

She highlighted that passenger numbers have fallen ‘sharply’, fuel prices have increased and the South Yorkshire Combined Mayoral Authority’s bid for ‘Bus Service Improvement Plan’ funding failed earlier this year as major contributors.

“Services were struggling even before Covid, but the post-pandemic environment has been a perfect storm for rural bus services in South Yorkshire,” Ms Cates said.

“From my meetings with Stagecoach and First Bus, it is clear that patronage has fallen sharply at the same time as fuel costs have increased.

“I was pleased to be successful over the summer in persuading the government to release a third round of the Covid Bus Recovery Grant.

“But, crucially, the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority’s bus service plan bid failed completely, which resulted in our region’s receiving not a single penny while neighbouring authorities in Manchester, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire received tens of millions of pounds.”

Penistone, which Cates described as a ‘rural area’, has many advantages due to the sense of communities – but admits it’s not always ideal when it comes to important travel circumstances.

“However, for many people, rural life is not an idyllic existence,” she said.

“My constituents share many of the challenges of urban areas, such as the rising cost of living and access to affordable family housing, but we also face some unique disadvantages that highlight the pressing need to include rural Britain in the levelling-up agenda.

“To state the obvious, the lower population density of rural places means that service models that work in urban areas are much less viable in our communities.

“The impact on everyday life cannot be overstated.”