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£140,000 rural mobility competition on track to connect Midlands communities

Published: Friday 02 February 2022

Businesses approached to put forward solutions to boost poor transport connectivity
  • Rural communities are twice as far away from essential services by public transport
  • Poor mobility also contributing to low productivity and limited social mobility
  • Midlands Connect has run a competition asking businesses for commercially-viable solutions to solve challenges faced by rural communities
  • Midlands Connect to make up to £140,000 available to develop innovative and deliverable solutions with £10K awarded to the top four entries, and up to £100k awarded to the best idea

Transport body Midlands Connect has launched a rural mobility competition inviting businesses to put forward ideas that could help solve the social, environmental and economic issues caused by poor connectivity in rural areas.

A list of specialist private companies and consultancies have been asked to submit commercially-viable mobility solutions that could be deployed in rural communities across the Midlands. These could include demand-responsive transport or online applications allowing residents to access electric scooters, bicycle hire, buses and taxis in the click of a button.

Up to four of the best proposals will be awarded £10,000, allowing chosen firms to further develop their ideas alongside local authorities, academic institutions and third-sector organisations to understand how their ideas could be practically delivered.

Should a suitable idea come forward, one organisation will then be selected as the ‘winner’ and awarded up to £100,000 to fully develop plans for its rural mobility hub pilot. If successful, we hope this model could be used more widely across the region to drive innovation and improve rural mobility for our communities.

The winner will be announced in the summer of 2022, the entry selected must create a commercially-viable solution to a rural connectivity challenge.

Analysis suggests that rural communities are roughly twice as far from essential amenities and services via walking and public transport that those living in urban areas. This includes hospitals, which are an average of 66 minutes away compared to 36 minutes in urban areas, secondary schools (31 minutes vs. 16 minutes), GP surgeries (23 minutes vs 11 minutes) and town centres (17 minutes vs. 34 minutes).

Rural areas also suffer from lower productivity, with productivity per job 17% below the UK average. In addition, rural areas are 56% less likely to be social mobility ‘hot spots’ than urban areas – meaning that children born into poverty are less likely to do well at school and get a good job.

By improving access to education, healthcare and employment opportunities, it’s hoped these transport solutions will address these difficulties.

Maria Machancoses, Chief Executive of Midlands Connect, said:  

“This competition and the solutions it creates have the potential to change people’s lives, whether it be supporting a graduate to access better employment opportunities, allowing a parent to earn a higher education qualification or an elderly member of the community needing to travel to a medical appointment.

“Rural communities contribute a huge amount to the Midlands economy, it’s really important that we address the unique challenges these areas have and give local people the tools they need to succeed. With radical changes in transport expected over the next decade, we must act now to harness the benefits of emerging new technologies.  Owning a car should not be a prerequisite to a full and enjoyable life, this competition will look at how we can improve mobility in isolated areas, and if successful this model could be rolled out region wide.”