Cuts that hurt: number 372

Today marked the end – maybe the beginning of the end.

Cuts to bus subsidies from Devon CC mean that from tomorrow Buckland Brewer and surrounding villages will be served by one bus a day. The early morning and mid afternoon service will not run during the Petroc College summer holiday.

Devon’s rationale is simple. Outside of college term time there are not enough fare paying passengers to make the service viable. Simple, except that having not seen the figures there is no way to tell how many passengers short the service is from viability.

So, if you don’t have access to a car and can’t afford a taxi, forget a day trip to Barnstaple. If you’re a one car family, you’ll have to do more planning and probably more driving.

In the past, I used the bus at least five times a week. Currently, I’m doing just one Barnstaple to Buckland journey a week though circumstance might mean more journeys in the future. From next week, I can get to Bideford, but will need a lift onwards.

Sure, we’re lucky to have a daily service at all. And, who knows, there’s other priorities in time’s of spending cuts. But, it makes many people that much worse off. It also threatens the long term viability of the service. Degrading a service often creates a downward spiral making that service less and less attractive and less viable.

But, there’s some good news. Operator, Beacon Bus,  and the five parish councils served by the 372 have come to an agreement. Beacon has promised to run one extra journey from Barnstaple at the later time. The councils have promised to meet any shortfall in passenger revenue to make the service break even.

That’s a good, pragmatic agreement.

On the other hand, might this be the thin end of a wedge that sees more and more spending obligations fall to parishes?

Wouldn’t you know it, there nearly was no “last bus”. The bus suffered a breakdown on its inward journey to Barnstaple and those of us left at the bus station had to wait 40 minutes.  With great sadness the 372 struggled up Orleigh Hill one more time in hazy late afternoon sunshine.

Bye-bye bus. See you in September.

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