Torbay Council has been working hard with other operators to try and ensure that bus services can be maintained, following the announcement last month that Torbay bus operator ‘Local Link’ was withdrawing from the fare element of their business with effect from Saturday 1 April 2017. The local authority is pleased to announce that two new operators, will shortly be running services within the Bay.
Cllr Mark King, Executive Lead for Housing, Planning, Transport and Waste said: “I am delighted to hear about this news. To have two new operators working within Torbay and bringing fresh ideas is with them is very positive. I wish them both well. This is a good day for the bus users of the Bay.”
DJ Watts Coach Travel Ltd T/A Torbay Mini Buses has registered the following bus routes currently being operated by Local Link. These routes are numbers 62, 64 (revised), 108/109 and supermarket services S1-S6 and TC1. The buses will carry new branding under the name Torbay Buses.
Darren Watts, Managing Director of Torbay Buses, said: “It is intended that there will be no break in service. Many of the vehicles and drivers will be familiar to those members of the public currently using these services. The first day of operation for Torbay Buses will be Monday 3 April 2017.”
“Torbay Mini Buses currently specialises in providing mini coaches for private hire work and 16 seat and wheelchair accessible minibuses for school contract work. Fare paying bus routes are a new venture for us and we hope this will become a growing and successful part of our business.
“We have had the full support of both Torbay Council and the current operator Local Link in the registering of these routes and are very grateful for their continuing help and advice.”
At the same time, Torbay Community Development Trust (TCDT) has joined forces with a team of dedicated volunteers to take over the running of the recently withdrawn 60/61 bus service between Paignton and Torquay. The new community led service renamed the 60 will come into effect from Monday 3 April and offer passengers a similar service to the old route, travelling from Paignton to Torquay, via Occombe Farm, Preston, Livermead and St Lukes.
A recent transport survey undertaken by the TCDT demonstrated how vital the service was to the lives of vulnerable and older people.
As with the previous 60/61 service, the new 60 bus route will offer residents a Monday to Friday service. The new route will also offer a Saturday service enabling local residents who rely on the bus greater flexibility to travel around the Bay on the weekend. The continuation of the service, which has created a number of job opportunities for drivers, was only made possible due to Torbay Council generously offering a favourable concessionary fare agreement to the new providers, without which the service would not be able to run.
Rhian Keyse, Ageing Well Community Transport Coordinator, said: “We are delighted that TCDT will be operating the new 60 bus service. Our research into transport needs demonstrated that transport links across Torbay are absolutely critical.
“Without access to transport, many of the most vulnerable members of the community say they feel lonely and isolated, which has a negative impact on their wellbeing. This new initiative is a real triumph of community action and shows what can be done by dedicated local volunteers working to solve issues within their communities. The new route will be reliant on the support of the community and we would like to encourage residents to make good use of the service.”
Cllr Mark King, Executive Lead for Housing, Planning, Transport and Waste said: “The 60/61 is a vital route for the residents of Torquay and Paignton and many would be left isolated without this service. The TCDT and their partners have worked hard over the past few months to put this route together and I have supported them every step of the way.”
Country Bus, in association with Devon County Council, will also operate a new 125 service from Stoke Gabriel into Paignton via Marldon.
Unfortunately no companies came forward with proposals to run the existing Local Link 65 and 67 routes and council officers will continue to work with operators in an effort to fill any gaps left in the network.
Full details of the new services will appear in Devon Transit 059 in a weeks time.
Meanwhile elsewhere in The Bay…
Stagecoach DevonA new fleet of open top buses will serve Torbay this summer. The Golden Hop122 will start on April 29 and run right through the summer season up to every 20 minutes, seven days a week. The fleet of six buses will connect St Marychurch, Torquay, Paignton and Paignton Zoo and visitors will be able to enjoy a unique sightseeing experience and hop on and off as often as they like to visit destinations and attractions along the route.
Bob Dennison, Managing Director of Stagecoach South West, said: “I'm absolutely delighted to be introducing a regular open top service to the Bay. Tourism is a vital part of Torbay's economy and I hope that the colourful, eye-catching buses and family of fun characters will be a hit with both residents and tourists alike."
Richard Cuming, chairman of English Riviera Attractions and owner of Bygones added: “Over the last few years Stagecoach has been a fantastic supporter of the Attractions Partnership. This new service further proves they are committed to finding more ways to support tourism in the Bay and I can't wait to see it pass by my front door."
Each 'Golden Hop' bus features a distinctive yellow livery with its very own 'bus hopper' animal character. The first bus, starring the Hop mascot Gary the Rabbit, spent the day at the popular tourism exhibition to promote the new service to businesses across the Bay. The remaining five buses are currently being prepped ready for the start of service and each 'bus hopper' has been named by classes from Torbay primary schools:
- Chirpy the Cricket (Class 2M, Cockington Primary School)
- Porter the Penguin (Class 13, Oldway Primary School)
- Cango the Kangaroo (Class 14, Oldway Primary School)
- Freddie the Frog (Class 2, Priory Catholic Primary School)
- Swash Buckle the Pirate Parrot (Class 3, Priory Catholic Primary School)
Children at Cockington Primary School were also responsible for coming up with the name 'Golden Hop' to describe the bus route itself.
Teacher Anna Hylands said: “The children have been so enthusiastic about coming up with a name and we loved thinking about the parts of travelling we enjoyed and what name reflects this. Our final idea, 'Golden hop', was decided after a secret vote. The child who created the name said that her favourite part of a day out was hopping on a bus and feeling as if it can take you anywhere." Further details of the new service, including a full timetable, will be announced by the operator soon. To further promote the link with local tourism, each 'bus hopper' character will also be hosted by an attraction along the route. Children can collect a sticker from the character from the attraction and add it to a free sticker book. This will be available from Stagecoach's Paignton Travelshop and from their open top driver. Host attractions are members of the Attractions Partnership whose popular 'passport' the bus operator also sponsors. Bus hopper locations will be:
- Bygones (Swash Buckle)
- Dinosaur World (Chirpy)
- Kents Cavern (Freddie)
- Paignton Travelshop (Gary)
- Paignton Zoo (Cango)
- Torquay Museum (Porter)
Its good to see Stagecoach really going for it again this year. There does seem to be a resurgence on interest in open top operation across the group lately. There are even some brand new ones for The Lake District this year! Lets just hope that the weather holds and it proves to be a worthwhile investment. Now if we could just get someone interested in open toppers in Plymouth….