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An uncertain future for bus services in Devon

  • by JW

“We have a huge rural area and if bus patronage does not return to usual soon, there will be financial implications.”


Back in December 2018, the Campaign for Better Transport group put together a promising paper:


Campaigns | Campaign For Better Transport


Since then, there has been more creative thinking:

The Future of the Bus: reinvest in local public transport – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Buses and bikes – beyond London – Vision Group for Sidmouth


And, indeed, just as the pandemic was starting, new policies were being looked at for the county:

Proposed improvements for Devon’s bus services – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Because things are bad, particularly in and around Exeter:

Exeter Transport Strategy: slowly emerging… – Vision Group for Sidmouth

The ‘Net Zero’ Exeter plan has “profound flaws” – Vision Group for Sidmouth


However, the opportunities offered by the pandemic do not seem to be working out:

New cycle lanes and wider pavements: abandoned in Exeter – Vision Group for Sidmouth

As reported earlier by the excellent Exeter Observer:

Coronavirus exposes council failure to deliver Exeter transport plans – Exeter Observer


But looking beyond the city, things are looking even more unpromising, as reported by Daniel Craig:


Future uncertain for Devon’s buses and trains

Public transport in Devon faces an uncertain future unless people get back on buses and trains.

An organisation called the Peninsula Transport Shadow Sub National Transport Body, on which local councillors sit, has been told the number of people using buses ris less than half what it used to be across Devon and Cornwall.  Train use is 35 per cent of pre-lockdown levels, but gradually increasing.

Although transport operators receive government support to ensure they continue to run loss-making services, it is uncertain about how long it will last and concerns about the impact it could have if routes stop running. Significant numbers of people are still under the impression that public transport should only be used if essential. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously said people should avoid public transport if possible, although messaging has since changed to allow  bus and train use for any purpose.

But Cllr Mark Coker said: “We have a huge rural area and if bus patronage does not return to usual soon, there will be financial implications for the bus companies and the local authorities. Are we going to actively encourage people to get back on buses, and will the DFT change their message?”

Future uncertain for Devon’s buses and trains – Radio Exe


We need to get much more creative:

Invest in buses > “transport infrastructure makes a real difference to the effectiveness of local economies” – Vision Group for Sidmouth