Problems with the 301 Barnstaple – Ilfracombe – Combe Martin bus service

An Ilfracombe resident writes:

“I have been very pleased with the improvement of bus services between Ilfracombe and Barnstaple and beyond since First withdrew. In particular, the ability to get off and on Ilfracombe buses at the railway station is a boon for rail passengers with luggage. Luggage can be a problem at times, particularly when several young mums with buggies want to get on at the bus station or Green Lanes, but it’s normally coped with amicably. Wheelchairs of course are always a problem in an overcrowded bus.

“For me, the major problem in North Devon is Filers (a private family-run business), which appears to wilfully ignore the needs of passengers. Since they extended their 301 service to Combe Martin after First withdrew, there has been no connection to the former terminus at what was Ilfracombe bus station. Discussions with local people resulted in letters to Filers and the local papers asking them to call in at the bus station, but they were ignored. Of much more concern to passengers is that the last bus from Ilfracombe to Combe Martin leaves at 1815 and the last one back to Ilfracombe leaves at 1840. Many’s the time I have got off a First or Stagecoach bus at Ilfracombe Bus Station to experience passengers in despair after realising there is no bus to take them on to Combe Martin. There are signs indicating a taxi rank, but all the taxis are in Oxford Grove. That’s a strenuous slog up a very steep hill with luggage, that’s if the passengers are aware of the location of the taxi rank. Under those circumstances I always help out by phoning the cab company I use, but I’m not there all the time. Obviously now the Bus Station is a Council-owned car park, sorting that problem is going to be very difficult because so many organisations are involved.

“The 301 service is also a problem in the opposite direction from Ilfracombe to Barnstaple which calls in at the Hospital before terminating outside the Post Office in Boutport Street, rather than the Bus Station like all other services. This is obviously a problem for people of reduced mobility, particularly if they’ve just come from hospital, and who need to get on to a connecting service from the Bus Station. I have written to Filers and to the local papers, and twice to Devon County about this without any changes being made. However, I recently discovered that in order to turn round for the return journey, the 301 buses go to the roundabout and park at the lay-by beside the Bus Station before continuing to the stop outside Woody’s. So why isn’t the Bus Station listed in the timetable? I have reason to suspect something underhand is going on, which might, if challenged, result in passengers not being carried to and from the Bus Station.

“Devon County Council has repeatedly claimed it has no control over private bus operators. This is clearly not entirely truthful, but of course, private operators have the option of closing down services if they don’t like requirements demanded by the Council and passengers. I suspect this can only be resolved by legislation, but the chance of a governing political party which exists to provide facilities for private enterprise is hardly likely to support motions to provide more control over the operation of bus and train services.”

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