The Cost of Stations

The following letter was published in the North Devon Gazette on 26 June 2013.

‘Good local bus services are vital’ (Gazette, 5 June). Nick Harvey MP is right and his reasons are sound. His call to the Treasury on behalf of these threatened services is timely.

But he should look more widely. Local bus and rail services are in principle rightly supported from the public purse. In practice, however, the costs of providing a rail service to a good many of the rural stations on the Barnstaple to Exeter line are very high in relation to the numbers of people who use them. Usage figures show that, except for Umberleigh, Eggesford and Crediton, it is very difficult to justify retaining all of them.

The fares people pay for the service to the other stations fall far short of the costs of providing it, which, according to calculations made by North Devon Public Transport Users, amount to at least £500k per year. The difference has to be made up, directly and indirectly, from the public purse.

Switching the substantial funds involved to the buses would be no simple matter. For three reasons, however, it would be worth doing.

  1. It would go a long way towards giving the rural bus services the security they need.
  2. It would allow the railway to concentrate on the job to which it is best suited, which is to provide the truly fast service between Barnstaple and Exeter which north Devon needs.
  3. It would be the spur to the development of the properly integrated public transport system the area urgently requires.

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