A BUS company has hit back after it was criticised as a 'Cinderella service' by a parent of an Okehampton student who has been experiencing problems getting to and from Exeter. Western Greyhound says it has stepped in at short notice to provide services for the people of Okehampton when the town was left high and dry by other bus companies. Rachel Sturgess claimed the 510 service used by her 16-year-old son was frequently breaking down — and sometimes buses did not turn up. She said she had to pick up her son up from Tedburn after another breakdown recently because he had been told he would have to wait another hour-and-a-half for the next bus. The following day the bus was late in the morning. Mrs Sturgess said her son's bus pass only covered the 510 Western Greyhound service which ran approximately every two hours. 'My son has to catch the bus at 7.30am to get to college for 9am. If it's late or does not turn up there is no other bus he can catch,' she said. 'He often has to wait for hours for a bus after college. I expect as soon as he can, he will learn to drive and who can blame him? How can people be expected to use public transport when it is such a state.' Mark Howarth from Western Greyhound said things occasionally went wrong on buses, like all vehicles, and on this occasion it was down to an intermittent electrical problem. 'It was a bit of a disaster on those two days,' he said. 'We maintain our buses to a very high standard and spend many thousands and thousands of pounds on preventative maintenance, but things can go wrong from time to time.' Mr Howarth said there would never be a case where a bus was not run, but with the best will in the world, delays happened because of road closures, roadworks, accidents and traffic congestion, which were no fault of the bus company. He said Western Greyhound had one of the youngest bus fleets in the South West and well exceeded Government targets for age. 'When Stagecoach and First Devon and Cornwall both withdrew their services almost in entirety from Okehampton we went in at very short notice to provide services for which we are getting no subsidy to help the people of the town,' added Mr Howarth, who said that he hoped in time it would be a profitable venture. He said the company was currently waiting for some new buses to be delivered to use on the route. Mr Howarth said the timetable was dictated by Devon County Council and fitted in with the student hours. 'We would provide buses every five minutes if someone was prepared to pay for them,' he added. A Devon County Council spokesman said student bus passes were issued using the bus service which provided the most appropriate route and the most suitable times for the pupil to whom the pass was issued. The spokesman said: 'Where more than one company operate a bus service along a corridor, to provide a pass which can be used on all services would require a similar pass, and payment for each company. Therefore in this case, it would not be cost-effective to use two different bus companies, as this would double the cost of travel.'
Firm strikes back after bus failures
Friday 29th February 2008 12:00 am