Trends in bus servicesThis is a crucial year for buses in the Moorlands. The County’s 10-year Transport Plan Review started publicly in January and is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. The County had previously failed to attract additional funding for buses from central government because its previous Bus Improvement Strategy was deemed inadequate. Alongside this, the County is waiting for confirmation (expected in April) of extra new money from Network North from the cancellation of HS2.

Many people complain about the poor level of bus services, but without a proper case being put to the County it is unlikely that we will see substantial extra investment in our district. SMDC Councillor Charlotte Atkins has now written to the County asking that officers come to the Moorlands to hear our case. She has since received agreement that there will be a meeting in the district for just that purpose. The date, precise location and nature of that meeting has yet to be set, but this is a step forward from previous years when, despite promises of a ‘rural bus revolution’ there was little tangible evidence of any detailed engagement except on the subject of Moorlands Connect.

Buses are crucial in the push for decarbonisation of the district. With the growth in car use, and the rapid growth in renewables in the UK’s energy generation system, transport is now the stand-out component of the country’s emissions profile. The decline in bus services has been more severe in Staffordshire Moorlands than almost anywhere else in England, as the accompanying map from the University of Leeds/Transport Action Network dramatically illustrates.

The central role of buses in decarbonisation was underlined by County officers when they introduced the 10-year Transport Review. This is a summary of what they said:

IMG 20230909 112028 HDR3Recently, MCA members caught a bus to take themselves and all their stall kit to the Sustainability Summit at Stoke-on-Trent. The ride only took a little longer than a car journey and was less stressful: we had no parking problem at the other end, enjoyed talking to passengers along the way and got a bit of healthy exercise walking to and from the bus station in Leek. The downside, of course, was that we had to get back before the buses stopped running and couldn’t stay for a celebratory pizza. Also, in the absence of an integrated bus system, we had to pay twice for the two bus legs in each direction, even though the connection was pretty seamless. In this respect, we envy the citizens of Greater Manchester with their Bee Network, where the buses are under local control.

Clearly, the Moorlands isn’t Manchester but there’s a lot of traffic running between Leek and Hanley, even at night. The loss of late services makes teenagers who live along the route dependent on their parents for travel to social engagements. Do parents wait at their destinations or do they do the journey twice, with all that that entails? Similarly, many older people don’t enjoy driving at night but would happily take the bus. It’s an unfortunate fact that the scarcity of buses restricts educational and employment opportunities, particularly for the young. Perhaps there’s scope for putting pressure on the bus companies? Do let us know if you agree, via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Save Moorlands ConnectShould we expect the County to spend our council tax shovelling air around the district? In our last issue, we encouraged our readers to get out and about via Moorlands Connect. We were concerned then that an underused service would likely be discontinued and now we know that current funding for the service will very likely run out in 18 months’ time.

Sadly, we understand that the current cost per passenger to the county is £25, caused by the low take up of the service and the logistics of running in a rural area. The threshold for continuing to support such a service is £7 per passenger, so the future is very uncertain unless there is a substantial increase in take-up, especially from residents and particularly in the winter months, as at present the main usage comes from summer visitors.

If we want this service to continue we ALL need to get out there. To do so, see their website, ring 01335 342951 or download the App from the website.

Meanwhile, we've heard that the County are looking to parish and district councils for help to increase numbers

1. Get hold of as much granular information as we can on usage patterns – numbers, seasonality, timings, routes taken, user breakdown. How much information there actually is may depend on the level of reporting that the County demands from Ashbourne Community Transport, who run the service. Also, have the drivers’ views been sought?

2. Establish, if possible, what level of subsidy above the efficiency threshold of £7 the County might be comfortable with, i.e., how thick the leniency layer might be.

3. Work out what level of increased usage would get us to that target.

4. Find out exactly how Moorlands Connect is publicised – and how and where that might be done better - community groups, parishes, national park, tourist sites and appropriate district councillors?

5. Search out similar campaigns elsewhere in the country?

6. Seek help from national transport campaign organisations?

7. Work out how a local, on-the-ground, campaign of engagement might work.

8. Any other ideas?

9. Timetable and responsibilities for all of the above?

Moorlands ConnectWith summer on the way, we’re looking forward to getting out and about more in our beautiful Moorlands countryside. But how do we get there? In most cases it has to be by car, although some intrepid souls take the bike, even with our hills! Electric bikes are making that easier and electric cars help to allay our concerns about carbon emissions. Nevertheless, there are still tremendous problems with car numbers, as we outlined in an article two years ago - Congestion: a Tale of Two Counties. With so many people wanting to visit, public transport would appear to be an obvious solution but with infrequent rural bus services it’s not surprising visitors lose confidence and opt to drive instead. Is Moorlands Connect one possible solution?

Car charging Stromness2No new petrol and diesel cars will be sold from 2030 – just seven years from now. While EV charging infrastructure is being built fast in some cities and built-up areas, in districts like ours the journey has only just begun. In Leek, for example there are just two public chargers and one of those is often not working.

But at last there are signs of action. In late January, SMDC unveiled its plan for EV chargers in public car parks - in Biddulph, Cheadle, Leek and, perhaps some villages.

The plan seemed to MCA members and councillors a model of decisive and confident action – most took comfort from the fact the portfolio holder was himself an EV user and had a grasp of his subject.