Praise for Devon bus services

Devon County Council has won praise from leading transport charity Bus Users UK for successfully bucking national trends and offering residents good bus services.

The charity recently released a report examining the reasons behind the reduction in rural bus services, pointing to increased social isolation, the deep impact on young people and the consequent additional cost of social care services as a result of declining bus services.

However, during an appearance at the University of Exeter Business School, Claire Walters, chief executive of Bus Users UK, highlighted Devon County Council’s success in bucking the national trend.

By working with partners, the the council has helped to lessen the impact locally of a national trend in declining passenger numbers. Accessibility has been improved with more accessible vehicles, bus stops, and initiatives such as the Devon Access Wallet and Independent Travel Training to help people with disabilities or communication difficulties who may otherwise be unable to travel. It also works to ensure transport is considered when planning access to essential services such as education, social care, health or housing.

Walters said: “By working in partnership with all those providing bus and transport services, and carrying out meaningful consultations with residents, Devon is able to offer far better access to education, employment, leisure and shopping facilities than many other counties with a large rural population.

“There are always improvements to be made. Giving public transport priority and making sure interchanges are easy, for example, can encourage people out of private vehicles. This is particularly important if climate change targets are to be met. It is heartening that Devon County Council is aware of the challenges and working hard to ensure that people and communities stay connected.”

Roger Croad, Devon County Council cabinet member with responsibility for transportation, commented: “It’s reassuring to know that our efforts to maintain bus services wherever possible have been recognised, and we appreciate the kind words from Bus Users UK. Every local authority has had to make cuts to services over the past decade due to budget reductions from central government, and rural authorities have borne the brunt when it comes to the impact of reduced bus services.

“However, Devon has always been committed to maintaining bus services at a level which ensures that no communities are left isolated. Our transport team has worked hard to minimise the impact on bus passengers and there have been occasions when we have had to step in or work with stakeholders and community transport providers to keep services on the road which would otherwise have been lost.”