Take the bus – see more of Devon?

19 January 2015

On the evening of Friday 9 January, a colleague took a bus from Exeter to Winkleigh, a village in rural Devon.

The bus stopped just outside St David’s station, and a modern, reasonably comfortable, double-decker bus showed up bang on time.

As passengers boarded the bus they were greeted with, “You don’t want to go to Newton St Cyres, do you? No? You’re ok then.”

As the bus set off, it became apparent why. The bus continued straight on, rather than turning left towards Crediton. It turned out that the bus’s normal route, the road through Newton St Cyres was closed due to overrunning roadworks.

The colleague studied Google Maps on his phone, and the alternative route became apparent. It would take at least an extra half hour.

Other passengers clearly hadn’t anticipated this change of plan, including one woman (discussing this loudly with her friend) who had been looking forward to going to the loo when she got off at Crediton. They passed the village of Bickleigh, and with the issue becoming increasingly pressing and no prospect of arriving any time soon, she was contemplating having to get off in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately she managed to hold out.

As the bus trundled on through the night slowly making its way towards Winkleigh, and ultimately Barnstaple, the colleague considered what was going on. Why didn’t passengers know beforehand? Indeed, how could passengers have known beforehand? What would happen to those passengers who wanted to go to or from Newton St Cyres?

Phone signal is patchy around there. I doubt rural bus stops would yield any information, and a quick check of the Stagecoach South West website didn’t seem to suggest anything untoward. In general for passengers, a bus not showing up in the city is annoying, but a rural bus not showing up is potentially a disaster.

We put these questions to bus operator Stagecoach South West, and you can read the positive response from managing director Mike Watson:  Stagecoach South West response 160115

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