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Poor transport links to services 'hurting rural communities'

Rural communities are suffering due to poor transport links to vital public services, according to a new report.

Research by campaign group Rural England found that only 56% of rural households have "reasonable access" to a GP surgery by public transport or walking.

The study also found that young people in further education who live in rural areas spend longer travelling to colleges and pay more to do so than their urban counterparts.

Only half of those in rural communities can get to a further education institution by public transport or walking in a "reasonable travel time", the report noted.

The researchers warned that access to cash is a "serious issue" - only 30% of village households are within 2.5 miles of a bank or building society, and around 60% are more than five miles from a job centre.

Chair of Rural England's stakeholder group M argaret Clark said the study included " worrying findings across transport, education, social care and retail".

She added: "W hilst public health services are stretched across the whole country, rural areas are suffering due to difficulties and poor transport services."

Some 17% of England's population live in rural areas, according to the report.

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), which re presents more than 300 further education institutions across the UK, said: "AoC believes that students should be able to access the college with the best education and training that they want and need, not just making the decision based on the cheapest bus or train fare.

"We believe that existing arrangements for local authorities to provide financial support for transport to young people accessing education and training could be significantly strengthened.

"We hope that the Bus Services Bill, currently going through Parliament, will move towards that."

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