Lack of Fairness

David Baker calls for a real railway for North Devon, not a toy one ([North Devon Journal] Letters, 10 April). Richard Pengilley asks for a title for it that matches its importance as a public transport facility for the area: not the ‘cutesy’ ‘Tarka line’, which smacks of heritage, but ‘the North Devon line’ or ‘the Barnstaple line’ (Letters, 24 April).

Toy or real, and however named, strange things happen on it. Right now, four of its stations are being kitted out with ‘Harrington Humps’, devices which raise their platforms to make access to trains easier. These cost between £25,000 and £60,000 each.

Those involved include Copplestone, a station which sees on average fewer than 2 passengers per train, and Portsmouth Arms, with fewer than 3 per day. Both were provided with up-market waiting shelters, enhanced lighting and electronic information displays and/or user-operable information facilities some time ago.

Portsmouth Arms, additionally, had a massive concrete approach ramp installed, complete with sturdy hand rails. To my knowledge, the figures involved for all the work done there have not been divulged, but it would be surprising if they were much beneath £125,000.

This would be fine if the people who use these stations were the only ones needing public transport. But they are not: all over North Devon, there are thousands who use buses every day. The facilities provided for them are for the most part niggardly in the extreme. For example, half the bus stops along the busy bus route between Bideford and Barnstaple have no shelters at all, let alone the lavish arrangements afforded at the stations mentioned above.

Bus stop near Hopperstyle

 

Portsmouth Arms station with no passengers

Bus stop near Hopperstyle between Bideford and Barnstaple. No shelter and no direct lighting despite a housing development down the adjoining lane.

 

Portsmouth Arms station; about three passengers per day, or one every other train on average, yet a large shelter and direct lighting.

Some may say that money for bus and rail facilities comes from different sources. They would be right, but only partly so. Ultimately, it all comes from the public purse. That is a good thing. We could all applaud it. What is wrong is that it is so unevenly distributed.

The few are well served. The many are very poorly looked after. The lack of fairness should be everyone’s concern.

John Gulliver
on behalf of North Devon Public Transport Users

The text of this comment was published in the Letters section of the North Devon Journal on 8 May 2014.

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