The recent BBC “Inside Out” regional news documentary confirmed that “peak car” in the UK is here. Both the old and the young do not want to spend so much of their lives and so much of their money whizzing around in cars. Methods of communication are changing — the modern phone and the internet have replaced many journeys, while public transport is also becoming both more important and more necessary. But what of rural areas, where the reach and availability of public transport remains a challenge? We need both to build up its usage and to modernise and innovate.
A good place to start would be to see if we can make rural buses more accessible to those who live off the beaten track. If you live in the country, you are very lucky if you are near to a regular bus route, but there are many small villages and hamlets a couple of miles or so from a main route. Usually, there are no official bus stops (although most country buses will stop just about anywhere) let alone shelters. Why can’t we have some bus shelters at strategic locations, equipped with timetables and perhaps real-time information? If such provision is affordable at the likes of Chapelton and Portsmouth Arms train stations, which are remote from any settlement and average just 1 or 2 customers a day, then why not at some rural bus stops? Also — cycle racks would be a great boon. The days when folk would cycle to a bus stop and leave a bike in the hedge are long gone.
An example of the above scenario is the small village of Yarnscombe — served by a once-a-week shoppers’ service but barely 2 miles from the main Barnstaple to Torrington bus route. There is not even a bus stop sign at the main road. Would a shelter and small cycle rack be too much to ask for?
We could also start to think about using community transport to serve the nearest bus stop, rather than for each small vehicle to go all the way to town. The County Council charters taxis for some remote school children. Why not use a taxi for a daily shoppers’ service, from village to bus stop? That would be proper integrated transport!
A Yarnscombe Parishioner
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