Image: Russel Wills Image: Russel Wills

Half of small businesses in the UK believe that transport infrastructure in rural areas has deteriorated in recent years, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has revealed.

Only one in 10 (10%) small business owners thought roads and public transport had got better - demonstrating a real need to prioritise infrastructure investment in local and rural road networks alongside big projects on the Strategic Road Network.

The FSB found that small businesses are overwhelmingly reliant on roads, with nine in 10 firms (89%) placing high value on the network. Rural businesses are even more likely to rely on roads as they often report little or no access to public transport links like rail or buses.

The organisation is now calling for current and future devolution deals to be used as an opportunity for new combined authorities to commit to greater investment in local transport infrastructure. Protecting transport spending, alongside better strategic planning, investing in the local road network and public transport will all help support UK small businesses.

Mike Cherry, national chairman at the FSB, said: “The government is investing in transport – but the lion’s share goes to big flagship projects on the strategic road network. Most small businesses mainly rely on their local roads and public transport, so there is a strong case to prioritise investment in these smaller projects which will help to alleviate congestion and bottlenecks.

“The current devolution agenda in England presents a real opportunity to make a positive difference to rural communities. Small businesses want to see more resources earmarked for rural transport. This will help support rural small businesses as well as the UK tourism industry, which are both disproportionately affected when local bus networks and roads are left to deteriorate.”

The top three issues reported by businesses based in rural areas were: congestion on local roads, potholes and the cost of fuel. FSB would like to see these issues addressed directly in any new local devolution deals so that funds can be protected to better maintain roads and support small firms.

Keeping fuel costs low should also continue to be a priority with the government maintaining its commitment to freeze the duty escalator through to the end of this Parliament.