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New buses launched amid calls for measures to protect local services

PUBLISHED: 13:31 05 June 2013 | UPDATED: 13:31 05 June 2013

The sun shone as crowds gathered to admire the new buses.

The sun shone as crowds gathered to admire the new buses.

Archant

Cuts to local network would impact on rural communities, warns MP.

NORTH Devon MP Nick Harvey has asked the Government for measures to protect local bus services in the next Spending Round.

In the week that Stagecoach launched a £4 million fleet of new buses for North Devon, Mr Harvey has stressed the importance of bus links and the impact that further cuts could have on the area.

With bus services already having faced significant cuts, the MP and other Liberal Democrat colleagues have written to Chief Secretary Danny Alexander to outline alternatives that could safeguard bus routes.

Mr Harvey said: “Good local bus services are vital to connect our rural communities in North Devon.

“Through getting people to jobs, appointments, education and training, they are also essential to achieving the Government’s core objectives of getting people into work, increasing skills and promoting economic growth.

“The Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) was reduced by 20 per cent last year and funding has also decreased for local authority transport services.

“It’s also clear from discussions with local authorities that the concessionary pass scheme for older and disabled people is underfunded and does not cover the costs of the scheme to councils and bus operators.

“Bus links are so important in North Devon, and we need to look at new ways to make sure our rural lifelines are protected.

“I hope the Treasury will consider some of our suggestions – like pooling funding from all the Government Departments that benefit from local bus services.”

On Wednesday, Stagecoach’s 22 new North Devon Wave buses were unveiled in Barnstaple Square.

The buses are built to the latest environmental standards and represent the single biggest investment in Stagecoach’s North Devon bus network to date.

Timetables will see an increase in journeys in the evening and the Scania Enviro 400 buses will operate between Ilfracombe, Braunton, Barnstaple, Instow, East the Water, Bideford and Westward Ho! and Appledore.

Michelle Hargreaves, managing director of Stagecoach South West, said: “These buses are a huge investment and it’s thanks to the people of North Devon that have used our buses for the last few years.

“Without them this just wouldn’t have been possible.”

Councillor Valerie Elkins, Barnstaple’s deputy mayor, had the honour of cutting the ribbon to officially launch the fleet into action.

“It’s a fantastic investment for the area,” said Cllr Elkins.

“I hope this will open the door for other companies to invest here.”

Torridge District Council’s deputy leader Councillor Roger Johnson also attended the launch event.

He said: “It was my wife’s birthday a few days ago and we got the bus back and it was great; you didn’t have to rush off or worry about having a drink.

“It’s just a wonderful way of getting around the area and I think these new buses will be brilliant for that.”

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