The call for evidence identified opportunities where innovation could improve the range of transport choices available in rural areas.
One of the ‘strongest’ messages, the DfT said, was the opportunity for e-bikes to make cycling accessible to more people in rural areas.
Innovations such as digital demand responsive transport could also cater to the needs of areas where a commercial model for a transport network may not currently exist, it added.
The DfT said respondents also recognised that connected and self-driving vehicles could make travel safer and benefit older residents who no longer drive to enable them access amenities and reduce social isolation.
Drone delivery was mentioned by respondents as a factor that could help better connect rural communities, unlock new economic opportunities for local businesses and cut accidents and emissions associated with pickup and delivery by road.
Drones were mentioned as a mode to make delivery accessible such as in the Highlands and islands during lockdown, when ferries were not running.
The document summarises the responses to the DfT's call for evidence on the Future of Transport: rural transport, which ran between November 23, 2020 and February 16, 2021.
Barriers to adoption
Several barriers to realising these opportunities were raised by respondents.
Effective journey integration was identified as one of the main barriers to innovation, as was the high cost of development of demand responsive transport.
Many responses submitted to the call for evidence said that unless Government acts to shape how this happens, it is likely that rural areas will be left behind and the opportunity will be lost for the benefits of transport innovation to reach small towns and rural areas.
Respondents called for proactive Government intervention through regulation, funding and setting out a clear strategic vision to guide the market.
Issues affecting rural areas
One of the most frequently raised issues by respondents was the level of car dependence being ‘too high’ in rural areas.
The DfT said many respondents identified the lack of transport options available in rural villages and towns as being an important cause of social isolation.
Risks of of reduced accessibility for older and younger people in rural areas were highlighted in relation to accessing key services such as GPs, hospital, schools, shops, cafes, libraries, community centres and places of worship.
The DfT said it will use the evidence provided, along with further engagement with stakeholders, to develop a Future of Transport: rural strategy in due course.
Read the full responses to the consultation on the DfT website.