Transport Disadvantage in Northern Ireland: Rural Transport Experiences, Accessibility, Constraints and Barriers
S Mackey, J Hine, University of Ulster, UK
The link between transport disadvantage and social exclusion, namely the ability to access goods and services in a key public policy concern. Work in England and Scotland has identified the extent of the problem and some of the key patterns (DETR, 2000; Hine and Mitchell, 2001, 2003; Social Exclusion Unit, 2003).
To date, limited research has been undertaken on this relationship in Northern Ireland. In the province we have only seen the production of a short discussion document by the General Consumer Council (GCCNI) considering general issues of transport disadvantage. This is problematic given the statements of concern in national transport strategy and planning documents (DRDNI, 1998, 2002).
The purpose of this research is to address the lack of knowledge and understanding of the relationship between social exclusion and transport disadvantage in Northern Ireland. By and large, ?the relationship between transport and social exclusion is little understood by local authorities who are struggling to target resources? at the problem (DETR, 1998). There is a clear need, therefore, to identify patterns of transport need.
Transport disadvantage and social exclusion in rural areas of Northern Ireland is an important issue. For many years, these concerns have remained outside the brief of policy makers and transport providers in the province, but the recent Regional Development Strategy (RDS) and Regional Transportation Strategy (RTS) included a commitment ?to create an accessible countryside with a responsive transport network that meets the needs of the rural community? (RDS for NI 2025, 2002).
As part of the programme of this research, four case study areas at electoral ward level have been selected. Each ward meets one of the combinations of either ?good? or ?poor? levels of public transport provision, based on timetabled provision and ?low? or ?high? levels of car ownership. Focus group meetings within the rural community were carried out to enable understanding of individual circumstances surrounding how transport provision affects lifestyle decisions and mode choices. This qualitative data also provides information on views and concerns of the affected communities in terms of experience and perception. The outcome of these focus group meetings has highlighted the impact that poor transport has on the quality of access to goods and services in each of the four selected case study wards. The elderly and young dependants, many of whom cannot drive and, therefore, rely on lifts or bus services, experience particular problems where public transport provision is inadequate. Such difficulties result in an inability to access key services and facilities, such as education and healthcare. In wards where bus services are considered to be ?more adequate? problems still exist in terms of accessibility for the elderly and disabled, as well as for those who live a significant distance from the bus route and bus stops and whom rely on lifts.
This paper considers each of the four rural case study areas in terms of peoples? transport experiences, accessibility issues, constraints and barriers faced when attempting to make essential and non-essential journeys. It looks at differences or similarities between perceptions and reality, why people may suffer disadvantage as a result of transport in their area and how mode decisions and lifestyle choices are affected by public transport provision.
Association for European Transport