'Bring back daily town bus service'
PUBLISHED: 13:25 05 October 2015
Fearful shoppers and businesses say plans to extend Ottery's town bus service cannot come quick enough - as traders and residents suffer its loss.
The former 381 service has been reduced to two-days-a-week, from six, in the face of Devon County Council (DCC) cuts, which initially threatened to axe the ‘vital lifeline’ completely until public pressure persuaded the authority to keep some funding.
DCC agreed to support the bus - which now runs on Mondays and Thursdays – for the remainder of the financial year.
Ottery’s county councillor Claire Wright is now working with mayor Glyn Dobson to arrange a community transport service for the town, but this is unlikely to come into play until April 2016 – raising concerns about how residents, traders and stall-holders will cope in the meantime.
Organiser of the community market Penny Hounslow said the number of stalls has dropped by a third as it enters what is normally its busiest period. She says the lack of a Saturday bus has had a big impact on footfall.
Penny said: “Elderly people tell me they cannot normally get to the market now and I know lots of people really miss it.
“I do wonder how we are going to get on because this is normally our busiest period and we often have a waiting list for stalls, but now we are down to just 23 tables from 35 last year.”
Pensioner Evlyn Hearn, of Slade Close, is one of many who rely on the bus. She says having no service on Tuesdays and Saturdays means she now misses going to the market and having the chance to socialise with friends over coffee.
She said getting the Monday bus is ‘hopeless’ because some shops are closed, adding: “So many of us are getting older and we need the bus. It’s all getting a bit like a ghost town.”
Rosalind Browne, who runs Roberts in Broad Street, agreed the bus is ‘very important’ and said Saturday trade is difficult, especially since Sainsbury’s was built.
Councillor Wright confirmed she and Cllr Dobson are hoping to organise a regular service with TRIP – a community transport provider – but there is still a lot of fact-finding work to be done.
A DCC spokesman said it is not possible to run the bus on a Saturday as this would increase costs and make it unaffordable. It currently serves Ottery as part of a five-day contract, that also covers Cullompton and Crediton and is used for school runs at the end of each day.