Long wait for a bus is over

Joseph Bulmer

BIDEFORD pensioners Eileen and John Beer have been waiting a long time for their bus – 31 years!

They started campaigning for a bus service to the Devonshire Park estate on the outskirts of Bideford when they first moved into their home in 1980.

Now their wish has come true, with notification that Stagecoach has taken the residents’ wishes on board and will be introducing a bus service to the estate in January.

Eileen, 73, explained that after getting nowhere with her initial approaches to the county and local councils and to bus operators she gave up her campaign.

“We were told the cost could not be warranted. I was then in my 40s and decided I would just get on with it and walk into town,” she said.

But as they have grown older and less mobile Eileen and John, 80, started up their campaign again, contacting councils and bus operators. Again they seemed to be getting nowhere.

Then came exciting news this week from local county councillor Alison Boyle, who took up their case.

A bus will be diverting to the estate during its regular route between Torrington and Bideford. It is being introduced, not by the county, but as a commercial venture the Stagecoach bus company.

The couple are delighted – and are now urging people on the estate to use the new bus as much as they can.

Eileen said: “I have ME and cannot walk far. Although we do have a car, John is 80 and won’t be able to drive forever. When that happens we would be isolated here, like on a desert island. There is a very steep slope up to the estate and there is no public telephone here, nor any access to a shop unless you go into Bideford, nearly a mile away. It is not just us. There are a lot of elderly people up here who have to have taxis into town and the minimum charge is �3.20.

“We were told that the estate did not warrant a bus, but it has grown over the years, with four or five new developments, and there are now around 500 houses up here.”

Husband John said: “It is ridiculous that we have bus passes, but no access to a bus. We are the only housing estate in Bideford without a bus.”

Cllr Alison Boyle said: “I spoke with Mrs Beer in September and have since been talking with and e-mailing people at Devon County Council. I received an e-mail this week to say that the Stagecoach company is going to put on a service. It think it will be run as a trial to see how well it does and I hope it proves itself. Devonshire Park has grown so much that I believe there is a real market there. It is on a steep incline and for those who do not have a car it can be difficult to get out there. I am delighted for the residents.”

Stagecoach South West confirmed that, following requests from residents,a new bus link is being introduced between Devonshire Park and Bideford town from January 30. The link will be a wholly commercial venture and has been integrated with the existing 70 service, offering residents a two hourly connection through to Torrington, Bideford and Atlantic Village every Monday to Saturday.

Operations director Richard Stevens said: “For a number of years it has been a personal goal to get this service up and running and I am delighted that it has now come to fruition. I look forward to welcoming the residents of Devonshire Park on board our buses very soon.”