Facts And Figures

This section of the NDPTU website is concerned with bus services and facilities for bus users in northern Devon.

In 2017 NDPTU carried out a major survey of bus stops and their facilities.
Click here to read the report following the Survey.

Five true stories that illustrate the reality of bus travel in northern Devon.

1. January 2019. Ease of bus use and through ticketing. North Devon Hospital used to be accessible by bus from the Park School Park-&-Ride, now abandoned. Then it used to be accessible via the bus service from Bideford/Appledore. Now the hospital bus starts at Roundswell. A bus journey to the hospital from Bickington and most other places, including the suburban housing areas west of the Cedars roundabout, requires a change of bus. I know of a lady who boarded the 9am Filer’s 301 (Barnstaple to Ilfracombe & Combe Martin) service at Boutport Street asking for the hospital. The ticket she showed the driver was apparently not valid on Filer’s. She explained that she had come into Barnstaple by bus and that traffic congestion meant she had missed her number 19 connection to the hospital (presumably the 0847 from the bus station), that she had an appointment and would be too late if she waited for the next one (per timetable, the 0917). The Filer’s fare to the hospital was £1.60 and she did not have enough change so she went across the road to Barclays Bank to withdraw money whilst the driver waited. The bank machine had nothing smaller than a £20 note which she duly gave to the driver. There is a Devon Day Ticket acceptable “on all bus services in Devon except those operated by First’ but whatever the lady had was not accepted by the Filer’s driver. Too often, one-off experiences of bus travel can involve unexpected hassle and cost.

2. November 2018. I am registered as partially-sighted. Getting about the streets in Barnstaple and travelling on public transport is not easy. Using the local buses can be very hard, especially when their windows are dirty. A few days ago, I travelled several stops past where I needed to get off because the filthy windows of the number 21 bus I was on made it impossible to see where we were. This evening, I had the same difficulty travelling home from town on the same route after about 4 pm. The bus’s windows were covered in dirt. If it had not been for a kind person who was sitting close to me, I might well have missed my stop again.

I am just one of many people who are partially-sighted. Bus Company, clean your windows daily, more often if they need it. Some of your passengers depend on it.

3. I went into Barnstaple by bus twice today (Friday 16th November). There was nothing odd in the morning, except that the bus sped straight past the bus stop I was waiting at without stopping.

In the afternoon, while I waited at the same bus stop in Bickington, I spotted a printed notice dangling from the timetable. It said that, from the following Monday to the next Friday, no buses would be running on the 21 route between 9 am and 3 pm between the Cedars roundabout and Westleigh. This was because engineering works would be taking place between these two points. The same would happen the following week. The notice had not been there in the morning, so it must have been newly posted.

I went out in the evening to check what I had read. The notice had been removed. Had it been a cruel joke? I do not think so, for I spotted a copy of the same notice on the bus itself when I was returning from Barnstaple, although it was so small and awkwardly placed that few appeared to spot it. I shall look again tomorrow to see if it has been replaced [— see below for the result].

If it has and its information is accurate, it doesn’t say much for how our bus service is managed [nor for how its passengers are treated — Webmaster]. The 21 route is the busiest in North Devon. Hundreds of people living between Sticklepath and Instow use the buses between 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock. That there will be none between these hours is bad enough. That such short notice is given makes a bad situation worse.

A substitute service, running part of the way along the route and back again should be provided. Either way, such short notice of a disruption of the service is thoughtless. If the plans have been changed at the last moment, it does not say much for those involved. Whoever allowed this to happen should be ashamed.

3a. I wrote to you yesterday to observe that notice had been given at bus stops and on buses that no buses would operate from Monday to Friday along the 21 route between the Cedars roundabout and Westleigh for two weeks between the hours of 9 am and 3 pm.

I went into Barnstaple again this morning, using the same bus stop. The notice about the changes, originally attached to the timetable at the stop at some time yesterday, but which had disappeared by the evening, had not been replaced. Others were waiting at the stop before me. One had already heard about the temporary cessation of the bus service and was concerned about the consequences for people having hospital appointments and so on. Another hadn’t and was disconcerted by the news.

On the bus itself, the same small, printed notice was still in position. Few appeared to be aware of its presence or to know what it said. It had, however, been crudely crossed out, in ball-point ink. In response to a question as I left the bus, the driver told me that the temporary withdrawal of the bus service would not be happening after all. Buses would be allowed to operate along the road between the Cedars and Westleigh, but cars would not be permitted.

If I had not asked, I would not have found out. Nor, presumably, would others. I wonder how many people, believing that the bus service would be suspended, had sought to change appointments long arranged, or booked expensive taxis to ensure that they would be able to attend? And how would they now feel when, having learned at such short notice of the expected interruption of the service, that things would continue as normal anyway?

The bus drivers originally said that no substitute buses were being laid on to cover part of the route because the council would not pay for them. Perhaps they were acting under instructions. If so, they cannot be blamed. But it is surely not down to the council to pay for the continuation of a service interrupted by developers. Any costs, including those for substitute bus services, should be covered by the developers themselves.

The council’s duty is presumably to ensure that all changes of this nature are properly made in good time and with regard to the maintenance of services to all who depend on them. In this instance, there appears to have been chaos all around. At the very least, those bodies responsible for it need to be identified and steps taken to ensure that there is no repeat. Anything less would merely add to people’s perception of the low priority afforded to public transport services in the area.

4. Early November 2017. Walking from home over to Fremington yesterday, I noticed an elderly woman standing at the bus stop across the road from the turning up to the Children’s Hospice. She must have been eighty or more and was leaning on her two walking sticks. A bus neared the stop as I approached it. As it stopped, she hobbled slowly towards it. By the time I reached the stop, the bus had departed, leaving the woman at the stop. “What happened there?”, I asked. “The driver said the bus was full”, she said.

This was not in the rush hour, but mid-morning. I wonder how many more would-be passengers were turned away further on.

5. Morning, two days earlier. I went down to my local bus stop in Bickington, intending to catch a bus into Barnstaple. I got there just after 9:30. A bus is due to leave at 9:40, but sometimes one can get on a late-running 9:25. Not that morning, though. The 9:25 must have gone through more or less on time.

So I waited for the 9:40. Not bad, that: just eight or nine minutes to wait. The 9:40, though, didn't appear at that time. It didn’t appear at 9.55, the scheduled time of the next bus. It didn’t appear at 10:10, either. Nor did any other bus. Even by about 10:15, no bus had appeared. I gave up and went back home for a coffee.

When I first arrived at the stop, there were already three people waiting, including one person who needed to get to the bus station to change to another bus that would take her to the health centre in Newport, where she had an appointment. She was still at the Bickington stop when I gave up to go home. By this time, a dozen people were waiting.

I met her later the same day and asked how she had got on. She told me that she had eventually got on a bus to town at just after 10:30, having waited at the stop for the scheduled quarter-hourly service for a full hour. She said she had missed, not just the first connection at the bus station, but the second as well.

With some time to wait for the next connection, she walked the mile or so to the health centre, arriving long after her planned appointment. Luckily, they found a slot for her, although she had to wait some time for it. I would guess that she was in her mid-70s.

Mid-70s was probably about the average age of the dozen people at the bus stop when I abandoned my Barnstaple trip. The Bickington stop is one of the many in the area with no seating of any kind. And of course it lacks any means of letting would-be passengers know when buses are actually on the way.


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