Members of the public have been left questioning local public transport services after students were left stranded when new busses failed to connect on time.
Earlier this year, Devon County Council announced the introduction of the new 6 and 6A bus services in collaboration with Stagecoach which aim to offer replacements to previous services running to Exeter.
Recently, the Post was contacted by a service user who felt let down by this new replacement. The person, who wished to remain anonymous, said that despite using services for the last 20 years, recent changes have meant that car travel was forced to become more and more regular.
They said: “For the last 20 years I have been using the bus from Bude to connect with trains at St Davids, normally for journeys to and from London. Sadly, following the introduction of the new 6 / 6A timetable from the beginning of this month, I will now have to drive.
“The bus is advertised as connecting with trains at Okehampton, but I understand that it is not officially classed as a rail link service, either by Stagecoach or by GWR. Of nine journeys tried from Bude since the start of the timetable, only five have arrived in time for the train at Okehampton – an unacceptable 55% success rate. Although the return journeys have been better, because the train is usually on time, a missed connection at best means a wait of three hours for the next bus.”
However, while this is inconvenient for bus users, the real worry comes from an experience had by their granddaughter.
They said: “I am lucky that I have the option of using my car. My 16-year-old granddaughter, who uses the bus every day from Bude to get to Exeter College, is not so fortunate. The 16.40 6A bus from Exeter is a students’ bus, which runs only on college days. It should connect with the 18.00 No.6 to Bude, also a college days only service. On two occasions last week the 6 left before the 6A arrived, leaving almost 30 students stranded.
“On the first occasion, the driver of the 6A didn’t even want to talk to the students and simply drove off back to Exeter abandoning his passengers at a deserted railway station on the edge of Dartmoor with locked toilets. You wonder if Stagecoach has any duty of care towards underage students.
“On the second occasion, Friday, the driver was a bit more sympathetic and agreed to take them down to Wetherspoons in Okehampton. This also is not the ideal solution for a 16-year-old girl, but at least there was a toilet. I understand that these student buses may receive support from Devon County and Cornwall Councils, so we are not getting the service as contracted with council funds.”
Unsurprisingly this has left some concerned for the reliability and safety of these services. When contacted by the Post, a Devon County Council spokesman said: “We are aware of several incidents last week which caused the late running of the 16.40, 6A service into Okehampton – this was due to incidents on the highway (a burst water main and a road traffic incident) which caused major delays on the road network in Exeter on different days and as a result delayed many bus services.
“Drivers on these two routes are instructed to wait ten minutes to ensure a more robust connection, but although every effort is made to keep these connections, the vehicles cannot wait indefinitely, or this will cause a delay to passengers waiting further along the route, and on later journeys. For students returning from Exeter College, although it may be inconvenient, there is a later service which runs to Bude at 19.25 from Okehampton.
“Devon County Council works closely with Stagecoach to monitor supported services, and in particular those used for students accessing education, however we have no control over external factors, such as traffic or incidents on the highway.”
The Post has contacted Stagecoach for a response.