On one of our comment pages we note that, all over North Devon, there are thousands who use buses every day yet the bus stops have minimal facilities compared with those at little-used stations on the Exeter–Barnstaple railway line. For example, half the bus stops along the busy route between Bideford and Barnstaple have no shelters. On this page we explore this lack of facilities in greater detail.
The first picture below shows a bus stop near Hopperstyle in Bickington on the main bus route between Barnstaple and Bideford. There is a bay for the bus to pull off the main carriageway but there is no raised pavement to facilitate boarding or alighting from the bus, no shelter and no direct lighting — a significant lack of facilities considering that the lane on the right in the picture leads to a largish housing development.
The next picture shows a bus stop in the same area and is a slight improvement but with errors. It also has a bay, and has a short raised pavement to assist passengers. But the raised pavement and the bus stop sign are at opposite ends of the shelter, which confuses passengers as to which end the head of the queue should be and confuses bus drivers about where to stop. (There is similar confusion amongst the bus drivers, but without the raised pavement, at the bus stop outside the Post Office in Barnstaple’s Boutport Street.) Although there is a shelter, it is too small to cope with the 20 people using this stop in the morning rush hour.
Here we have a staging-point bus stop at Bickington Garage with a bay and shelter in the Bideford-to-Barnstaple direction. Buses also stop opposite in the reverse direction — it is not clear whether this practice is official — there is no stop sign, no bay and no shelter, resulting in confusion all round. The font size on the timetable requires acute vision and as there is no lighting it is impossible to read from dusk onwards.
Finally, here are two examples from further afield, the first in suburban Birmingham and the second in Luxembourg, of how bus shelters should be done and to which northern Devon should aspire: solidly constructed with adequate capacity and protection from the weather, vandal-proof lighting, simple but comfortable seating, and useful information concerning the available services. Many other cities and smaller towns have similar shelters. Such provision is part of the local drive to encourage greater use of public transport, to increase people’s mobility and to reduce traffic congestion.
While money will always be a factor in discussions about public transport services, the examples above depict facilities that are inadequate, incorrect and inconsistent. Many of the problems occur because of a lack of foresight and thinking the situation through, and so provide neither best practice nor good value for money. For a prime example of inappropriate provision we repeat the image of the comparatively luxurious, spacious and well-lit shelter, not to mention the car park, approach ramp and newly raised platform, at Portsmouth Arms railway station, all for the benefit of about three passengers per day, or one every other train on average.
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