It’s always a pleasure to spend a few days in Devon. Superb coastlines, rolling rural scenery, two great cities, many attractive towns and lots of delightful villages. Best of all it has an excellent network of well run bus and train services making it very easy to get around. Here are ten reasons why it’s a top county for public transport and a few minor suggestions I picked up from my recent four day forray between 28th June and 1st July 2018.
1. Commendably Devon County Council produce six comprehensive (bus, train and express coach) timetable books covering the whole county (outside the unitary council areas of Torbay and Plymouth). Each has the relevant section of a countywide network map and colourful town plans. Timetable books exactly how they used to be and as they should still be. Aside from Devon, sadly only Surrey and Hampshire continue to produce information on this scale.
2. Devon also use the excellent CartoGold interactive software online to show their countywide network route map with links to timetables.
3. Their JourneyDevon brand is active on social media and responds to enquiries.
4. There’s a good value Devon Day Ticket available on every bus route in the county for £9.30; priced at £1 above Stagecoach’s own exclusive version. There’s also a Group version for £18.60 for two adults and up to three children.
5. Stagecoach South West are the dominant operator and do a great job. Buses are well presented, staff are professional and helpful, there’s good branding and an abundant supply of colourful timetable leaflets at staffed travel shops in main towns as well as on board some buses. Many bus routes are operated by double deckers enhancing the scenic views.
6. Plymouth CityBus similarly have a great network in Plymouth as well as routes across the border into Cornwall. Their Travel Centre on Royal Parade is conveniently located and well stocked.
7. There are some quality independently owned bus companies providing many of the tendered routes in the county. There are also community transport organisations including Tavistock Country Bus who operate Britain’s Least Frequent Bus Route; the infamous 112 Tavistock to Dawlish on the fifth Saturday of the month between April and September.
8. GWR operate the County’s stations and most of the trains on the main line as well as the branch lines to Exmouth and Paignton which have two trains an hour and hourly to Barnstaple. Even some of the aged Pacers on these routes have been nicely refurbished complete with usb sockets. There’s a plethora of promotional information about the branch lines and the tourist potential of each and there’s a Devon Day Ranger ticket for £12.40 (not before 9am Mondays-Fridays) covering all Devon’s rail lines.
9. Devon County Council fund four return journeys on Summer Sundays between Exeter and Okehampton. These call at Britain’s most minimalist station Sampford Courtenay.
10. South Western Railway operate the hourly service across the south of the county from the east into Axminster and stations to Exeter which is well used including the relatively new station at Cranbrook serving the significant expansion of new housing in the area.
And a few suggestions….
There are some ‘real time’ signs at some bus stops but these don’t show actual real time. Worse, the depiction of an icon on a diagramised online route map highlights the scheduled time rather than real time implying you’ve missed the bus when you haven’t. For example at 1517 I was still waiting at Morrisons for the bus scheduled at 1513, and yet to arrive, but the image below implies it’s gone and is further along the route. Best to turn the system off if it can’t show real real time.
Plymouth CityBus are underselling their comprehensive route network in the city by ceasing production of a printed map. Staff at the Travel Centre on Royal Parade observe they’re ‘forever getting asked for a map’. It’s on the wall but you can’t take that with you.
It would be really helpful for passengers if Plymouth CityBus displayed timetables for Stagecoach operated bus routes and the South Hams Devon timetable book in their Plymouth Travel Centre alongside their own comprehensive display. It helps promote bus travel overall rather than restricting to one company.
Similarly the excellent Devon County Council comprehensive network map available online and in segments in each timetable book would be very useful if printed as a whole countywide map. (Update – I’ve now been told this is produced so well done Devon). Same for Stagecoach’s network. More maps please.
The bus stops adjacent to Honiton station have no timetables displayed. It would be very reassuring and helpful to install them there.
Bus stop C at West Street, Okehampton only displays timetables for Stagecoach 6/6A and needs the 75A/B and 118 included.
Lympstone Commando station is now accessible by public footpath and needs the previous ‘restricted access’ sign removed.
All six of Devon’s excellent timetable books were impressively on display in Stagecoach’s Travel Shop in Exeter bus station but couldn’t be seen at Exeter Central station nor where they used to be prominently displayed right by the exit at Exeter St Davids – it would be good to reinstate them at these points.
Take a trip to Devon soon and enjoy the great travel opportunities available around this lovely county by bus and train. You won’t regret it.
Roger French 2nd July 2018