Stagecoach plans new north Devon routes
Stagecoach has announced it will introduce new and expanded services in north Devon one day after First said it was cutting all bus routes in the area.
First wanted to sell its network to Stagecoach, but when the Office of Fair Trading referred it to the Competition Commission, the deal fell through.
The North Devon Public Transport Users said it would be disastrous if no other company picked up the routes.
But Stagecoach said from September its service in the area would be increased.
First said on Tuesday it would be axing all its 10 routes in the area, which had been "under-performing" for a number of years. It will mean the closure of its Barnstaple depot and the loss of up to 100 jobs.
Stagecoach will not replace all the First routes, although it is introducing two new services and increasing some existing ones.'Vital links'
About 12 new buses will be added to the Stagecoach fleet, which operates from its depot in Barnstaple, when the expanded services begin on 24 September. A number of new drivers will also be recruited.
"Obviously Devon is a very big geographic area and we believe there are customers out there who'd appreciate an augmented service," Stagecoach spokeswoman Helen Scholes said.
She said Stagecoach South West considered itself a local company, with local staff and it felt it had a duty to provide services for local people.
As well as expanding many of its existing services, Stagecoach will also introduce two new routes - an hourly direct service from South Molton to Barnstaple and a service from Bude to Exeter via Holsworthy and Okehampton.
"We believe there is an opportunity in north Devon... and we hope by augmenting these services we'll be able to attract more customers," Ms Scholes added.
Stagecoach said the improved network would provide vital bus links in north Devon.