Rural bus services are under threat. Increasingly we hear of local authorities threatening drastic reductions or even complete removal of their budgets for supporting unprofitable bus services, with the risk that communities may be cut off from the public transport network.
Understandably, those affected protest against such cuts, for fear of being isolated and unable to access essential services for education, health, shopping, work or the simple independence of being able to get out and about without having to drive a car or rely on a lift.
They are joined in their protests by observers with an interest in good public transport, who bemoan the loss of any service, every cut in public expenditure on buses, as a threat to the future of the industry.
But is a reliance on heavily subsidised but often lightly used fixed route bus services, really the best way forward for public transport in deep rural areas? Or is there an alternative solution that couples the imagination of operators with emerging technology to provide a more flexible, agile solution with commercial potential?