07 October 2021

Devon Bus Back better Bid

Ambitious proposals to upgrade bus services and cut fares across Devon and Cornwall have been unveiled.

Devon County Council’s ruling cabinet when they meet on Wednesday is recommended to approve a £34 million bid to the Government under its post-Covid improvement programme, Bus Back Better.

The proposals will form part of a major public consultation exercise to be launched in Devon in November, which aim to make buses cheaper to use, greener, more frequent and more reliable.

A report on the bus service improvement plans is also set to go before Plymouth City Council’s cabinet on Tuesday, but no agenda papers for the item have yet been published.

The plans are being developed in partnership with Devon's bus companies, to would expand the "Devon Bus" brand to develop a common identity for the bus network in the county, including inter-available ticketing.

And recognising that travel patterns do not match local authority areas, Devon County Council is working with neighbouring local authority transport teams.

Working with Cornwall Council, Plymouth City Council and Torbay Council, they have already highlighted improvements to cross border connections and possible collaborations for fare initiatives, while they are holding similar discussions with Dorset Council and Somerset County Council for the eastern side of Devon.

An additional £7.5 million could also be spent on bus priority measures to speed up journey times in the main urban areas like Exeter, Exmouth, Barnstaple and Newton Abbot and improving bus stops and other infrastructure in the rest of the county.
Devon County Council's cabinet member for climate change, environment and transport, Cllr Andrea Davis, said: "The County Council has always been a strong supporter of public transport and we managed to maintain financial support for our buses when other councils were cutting funding.
"This is an exciting and ambitious opportunity to put local bus services at the heart of the future transport network in Devon and offer a real alternative to private transport which will enhance the County Council's commitment to be net carbon neutral by 2030.

"Buses are the main form of public transport in Devon. They provide services to a large range of people, many of whom don't own cars or have any other means of transport.

"The opportunity to bid for this extra Government funding will provide a quantum leap in how the bus service operates in the future."

She said improving local services would go hand in hand with cutting fares and that would create a virtuous circle.

"If we can make bus travel better value it becomes a more attractive option which can only lead to an increase in passenger numbers," she said.

Dave Black, head of planning, transportation and environment, in his report to the cabinet, added: "The County Council has remained a strong supporter of public transport and maintained financial support over a number of years.

"It welcomes the opportunities the National Bus Strategy brings to build on our commitment and looks forward to being able to improve the network in the future.

"The recommendations and suggested improvements set out in this document are an exciting and ambitious opportunity to put local bus services at the heart of the future transport network in the County and offer a real alternative to private transport."


Improvement to rural services

· Provision of at least four return journeys Monday to Saturday for all communities with a population of over 500.

· Exploration of alternative models of delivery including Demand Responsive Transport (DRT), expansion of Fare Cars or fixed routes

Evening and Sunday services

· On improved inter urban and city corridors; a service of at least three journeys per evening and on Sunday.

· Expansion of hourly night-time services for routes carrying over 2 million passengers per annum

Inter-urban services

· Improvements to services identified in the Exeter Transport Strategy up to a maximum frequency of 15 minutes.

· Other services into Exeter to gain an additional journey per hour, plus those to strategic towns such as Barnstaple, Newton Abbot or Plymouth currently carrying over 100,000 passengers per annum.

City and town services

· Towns with a population of 20,000 to gain an additional journey per hour if carrying over 100,000 passengers per annum.

· Towns with a population of between 5,000 and 15,000 to gain a minimum provision of an hourly off-peak service.

Devon “Lynx” services

· Strategic links improved between centres of population.

· Better connections with the strategic rail and coach network.

Proposed Devon Lynx services

· Exeter City early morning/late evening services to East of Exeter growth point

· New service from Tiverton and Cullompton to the East of Exeter growth point

· New service from Exmouth to the East of Exeter growth point

· More direct Bideford to Exeter journeys

· More direct Seaton to Exeter journeys

· A strategic link between Barnstaple, Holsworthy and Tavistock (for connections to Plymouth)

· A through service between Bude, Bideford and Barnstaple (working with Cornwall Council)

· A new strategic link between Barnstaple, South Molton, Bampton and Taunton

· A new strategic link between Bideford, Barnstaple, South Molton and Tiverton Parkway

· An improved hourly 155 service between Barnstaple, Tiverton and Exeter

· Improved hourly X38 between Exeter and Plymouth (forming part of Ivybridge to Plymouth 15-minute frequency)

· New Newton Abbot to Plymouth service (also forming part of the Ivybridge to Plymouth improvements)

· Increase to the 7 service between Newton Abbot and Exeter to every 30 minutes (and to serve the new developments along the route)

· New strategic link between Ilfracombe and Taunton via Lynton

· Improve the frequency of the 20 service between Honiton and Taunton and extend the journey to Taunton railway station

· A new strategic link between Cullompton and Honiton railway station

· A new strategic link between Bigbury, Modbury and Ivybridge railway station

· A new Ivybridge, Plympton to Derriford Hospital service

· A new summer leisure service between Newton Abbot, Dartmeet and Tavistock

· Summer leisure service between Ilfracombe and Lynmouth

· Summer Saturday service between Exeter, Tiverton and Minehead

Rail enhancement and links to railway services, as with improvements on the rail network such as the opening of the new rail station at Marsh Barton and the full time reopening of the Okehampton line, the council wishes to give increased opportunities for a seamless integrated journey


· Service 118 will operate to Okehampton Station from its opening, providing a link to Lydford, Brentor and Tavistock. When the train service increases to hourly it is recommended that all journeys serve the Station

· We will also explore links to from Tavistock to Bere Alston to link with the Tamar Valley line

· We will work with Cornwall Council to explore improved frequencies from Launceston, Bude and Holsworthy

· A new link from Hatherleigh will be examined and costed

· When the West Devon Transport Hub (Okehampton East Parkway railway station) opens this will open up more opportunities


· Earlier and later journeys and Sunday service from Seaton via Colyford and Colyton

· Subject to discussion with Dorset Council, examine earlier and later journeys to Lyme Regis


· A new 2245 Barnstaple - Ilfracombe journey to connect with the 2233 train arrival and reduce waiting time for travel to Pottington, Braunton and Ilfracombe

· Examine and cost extension of certain journeys on rural service to Combe Martin, Lynton and Woolacombe to the station

· Examine and cost extending service town service from Whiddon Valley to the Station

Bere Alston

· Explore options for better links to Tavistock and on to Okehampton station


· Local journeys to operate via the station for onward rail connections to Exeter, Barnstaple and Okehampton


· Improved frequency on local service will improve connections


· Earlier and later journey from Sidmouth to Honiton station

· Later journey connecting to Ottery St Mary

· New strategic service from Cullompton


· New Strategic links from Bigbury and Modbury to the south and Derriford Hospital and Plympton to the west

Newton Abbot

· Through journeys examined and costed from within the town and Bovey Tracey, Buckfastleigh, Ashburton, Chudleigh, Ipplepen and Kingsteignton

· Including earlier and later journeys and a Sunday service which does not currently exist


· With existing funding from South West Railways a link from the station to Skypark and Exeter Airport will be trialled in 2022


· Service from Honiton, Dunkeswell, Hemyock and Culmstock extended to station

· New strategic links from Ilfracombe and Lynton and Barnstaple, South Molton and Tiverton providing links to station


· Town services to operate via station forecourt with earlier and later journeys for work and education travel

Tiverton Parkway

· Extend Exeter service from Tiverton to Tiverton Parkway giving half hourly combined frequency with existing service. This will provide direct links for settlements along the Exe Valley to Tiverton Parkway

· New strategic link – Bideford, Barnstaple, South Molton and Tiverton Parkway

· Increase frequency between Cullompton and Tiverton Parkway

· Potential new links from Westleigh and Burlescombe


· Improved link to Kingsbridge and Salcombe already in place

· Increased frequency from Dartmouth to improve connections


· New strategic link between South Molton and Torrington providing a new link for the Tarka Line


Through the BSIP the County Council is seeking funding to reduce fares to make travel by bus better value, and therefore a more attractive option, which will lead to an increase in passenger numbers.

They are proposing a range of multi-operator tickets including:

· The expansion of the current Devon Day Ticket across Devon and Cornwall working with Cornwall Council, Plymouth City Council and Torbay Council and all bus companies across the Peninsula.

· A range of zonal tickets taking into account journey to work areas including: Exeter and surrounding tickets, Northern Devon, Plymouth and surrounding catchment, Torbay and the South of the County.

· They will explore the offer for young people and how this could be improved, in particular for those over 16.

· They wish to expand ticketing options to include local rail services offering an integrated offer across all public transport and linked to rail operators.


Part of the strategy sets out targets for moving towards zero emission vehicles. The County Council has been involved in two previous unsuccessful bids for reduced emission or electric vehicles.

The challenge in a county like Devon is the range of the vehicles versus the length of the routes operated.

Devon will be working with local bus companies and manufacturers to look at future options. They are currently working with a national bus manufacturer to look at examples of the longer distance routes and what method of propulsion is possible now and in the future. This could include electric or hydrogen options.


For any passenger it is important that the bus network is presented as a single entity, irrespective of local bus operator and whether provided commercially by an individual company or through County Council financial support.

The council will expand their “Devon Bus” brand to develop a common identity for the bus network in Devon, including inter-available ticketing. All buses in DCC area will carry the specified livery and Devon Bus or Devon Lynx branding. Development of websites and continuation of marketing campaigns


The BSIP will consider the whole journey, including the so called first and last mile, with it being important to establish a positive passenger experience.

Devon will be proposing improvements to the level of information provided at bus stops and key interchanges based on the number of passengers, frequency of services and profile of the stop. This will help make buses easier to use and attract new people, and will be developed and improved further, including further development of Real Time information.


Bus is the main form of public transport in Devon, providing services to a large range of people, many of whom have no alternative means of transport, and the opportunity provided by the government to bid for extra funding will provide a quantum leap in how the bus service operates in the future.

The bid is the first step in a process to engage in a conversation with government on how best to improve the current service and how it should be funded, with the council estimating that the improvements planned would have a revenue cost around £34m a year, with a further £7.5m of capital works for priority schemes to reduce journey times and to improve bus stop infrastructure and information points to provide clear information to assist passengers.

They are:

Improvement to rural services - £8.37m

Demand Responsive Transport – £2.16m

Evening and Sunday Services - £2.79m

Inter-urban services - £7.365m

Devon “Lynx” – strategic enhancements including links to rail services - £4.575m

City and town services - £4.145m

Devon Fares strategy to lower, simplify and attract more passengers - £3.34m

Devon Bus - branding and marketing - £1.25m

Bus priority measures to reduce journey times - £5m

Bus stop infrastructure – £2.5m

Councillors will hear next Wednesday (October 13) that the new plan calls for greater integration with the rail and coach network in Devon and greater cooperation with other neighbouring councils to recognise that journeys often cross geographical boundaries.

The first stage has already been achieved with the County Council and local bus operators agreeing to work towards an "Enhanced Partnership" with Devon publishing a Bus Service Improvement Plan by the end of October.

Cllr Davis added Devon was also working with the bus companies to ensure more vehicles were zero emission although this was more difficult in Devon than in a city because of the mileage range that was required.

The improvement plan would also provide opportunities to continue to work with Devon's community transport groups.

The cabinet when they meet will be asked to:

· Agree the main principles of a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) to be agreed in partnership with our local bus companies

· Agree the forthcoming public consultation on the main recommendations within the County Council’s Bus Service Improvement Plan

· Approve a bid to the Government of approximately £34m per year (revenue) and with a local contribution based on the emerging allocated revenue budget for 2022/23. In addition, a bid for £7.5m capital for bus priority measures with a local contribution from the Local Transport Plan.

· Give the Head of Planning, Transportation and Environment, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport delegated authority to make minor amendments to the Bus Service Improvement Plan following the consultation and response from the Department for Transport (DfT)

There is a lot top take in here – I do wonder how much of this will come about but its nice to see them putting the effort in. There are some good ideas here – what do people think though? Will these things happen? Am I being too pessimistic? I do HOPE they will happen and the money is made available but…


  1. So basically Devon want's what Cornwall has which is basically rubbish anyway. Instead of Devon Bus how about we go old school and call it "Devon General"

    1. I think they want what Cornwall should eventually get rather than what they have now!

  2. It's ambitious - I'll give Devon County Council that. Whether it is achievable depends on whether the Government backs up its talk on a carbon-neutral economy, investment, encouraging modal shift from car use and so on, or whether it reverts to type and favours more austerity going forward. Even then I wouldn't ditch the plans, because a new Government (there has to be a General Election by 2024 and there could well be one before then) might look at things very differently.

  3. It will never happen. I don't ever see the day in Devon and cornwall where Stagecoach, First and Go Ahead all work together. Nice ideas but really can't see it

    1. it is all part of the plan, all the bus companies had to sign up to it, in order to get funding, so yes all 3 companies WILL be working together.

    2. Indeed, not signing up to it means no funding. No funding means big trouble ahead.

  4. The theory is fine but there is a good reason why these routes don't currently exist!

    1. I think some of these have ben tried before - and failed!

  5. But Stagecoach can't even retain anywhere near enough drivers for what it pretends to operate now so what hope is there for this hugely ambitious plan!!!

    1. This plan will have been a long time in the making - but you are right - it will be a challenge for any operator to take on additional routes for some time. Unless they start to reduce frequencies on some routes, which is highly likely anyway

  6. Especially if they run early. Like the Dartmoor Explorer does ran 15 minutes early through Princetown last Thursday

  7. I suppose the easiest one to put in place is to extend some services on CityBus service 20A to Derriford

    1. I'd probably extend the 52 to Ivybridge instead and cut the 20A back to Plympton or Lee Mill. Given that the aspiration is to have four fast buses an hour between Ivybridge and Plymouth City Centre.

    2. Or:
      *Oakley's could request to extend the 52 from Plympton to Ivybridge
      *GSW could introduce the 20B. The 20A can do Plymouth - Ivybridge as it does now, then each 20A changes to a 20B at Ivybridge Town Hall (Plymouth Bound) to go to Derriford

    3. For the sensible proposal to link Ivybridge to Derriford, it'd probably make more sense to extend Oakley's 52 from Plympton to Ivybridge, as an hourly service too.

    4. The Derriford - Ivybridge link has been tried before - at least once. Didnt last long though

  8. As someone who lived in Torbay for 16 years I really like a good laugh and have seen this all before. Remember Kickstart and the 111 now just remind me what happened to that.......

  9. Has Plymouth released their BSIP yetis?

  10. Has Plymouth released their BSIP yet Gas?

    1. The paper considered by Plymouth's Cabinet is at https://democracy.plymouth.gov.uk/documents/b25536/Supplement%20Pack%20Tuesday%2012-Oct-2021%2016.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=9

    2. BSIP will be put to Gov this week.

    3. Why can't we see what Plymouth BSIP is like other authorities, Devon for eg

    4. there are some details - hoping to post shortly

    5. The draft PSIP is online, in the supplementary papers for PCC's Cabinet meeting.

    6. Thanks Graham Ihave tried but just get error messages,!

    7. here: https://democracy.plymouth.gov.uk/documents/s124029/211012%20Bus%20Service%20Improvement%20Plan%20Briefing%20Note%20Report%20-%20Final.pdf

  11. i was looking back over PCBs new bus purchases, and found a pattern of course it means nothing but E400s in 2013, E200s and E400s in 2015, E400City in 2017 and E400 City in 2019. Wonder if 2021 will bring new buses or not...

  12. Traveline SW shows a revised Monday-Saturday timetable for Dartline-operated route 118 (Tavistock-Okehampton) from Monday 20th November, the first day of the new Dartmoor Line train service between Okehampton and Exeter. Around half the service will be diverted in Okehampton to serve the Railway Station instead of the Hospital.

    A new Sunday/Public Holiday service of three return journeys will commence on Sunday 12th December, with buses departing Tavistock at 10.20, 14.40 and 17.10 and Okehampton Station at 09.30, 11.30 and 15.30. There is also a journey from Tavistock to Gunnislake at 13.30 and the 14.40 from Tavistock starts from Gunnislake station at 14.20.


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