Local company Oakleys Coaches has been forced to resign its tender and will no longer be running the Tavistock area services 55, 56, 59 and 98.

These services, which cover the Tavistock, Princetown, Yelverton, Dousland, Wotter and Lee Moor areas will continue operation under Plymouth Citybus from Monday, August 15.

Paul Oakley, owner and director of Oakleys Coaches, said: ‘With the rise in fuel costs and the increased costs across the board we needed to try and increase our prices to operate our bus services. All of our bus drivers needed a well deserved pay increase due to the cost of living crisis and the only way to do this was to put the services up for retendering but unfortunately we have been beaten on price by Plymouth Citybus who provided the cheapest tender and were awarded operation of the services by the county council.’

Rights to operate on routes are open for any company to tender once every eight years, provided 70 days’ notice are given to Devon County Council. Three years ago, Oakleys Coaches took over from Target Travel, whose operator’s licence was revoked. Before Target Travel, these routes were operated by Beacon Bus.

Paul added: ‘We’ve always done what’s best and this result has come as a real kick in the teeth but Plymouth Citybus won it fair and square. The difference is that large national companies can operate at very little or no profit from some routes if it means they can eliminate another small operator out of business. As a small operator we can’t afford to retain staff for long if the routes have gone.

‘The hourly rate of pay is too difficult to compete with against other companies. We were taking a gamble but unfortunately this will have a significant impact as we’re a small operator and may have to lose half of our workforce. We have 24 members of staff and every team member is an important player in our small, family-like workforce. Only last weekend for example one vehicle broke down and we were straight out to cover that driver and the route they were on with a replacement.

‘It has been a pleasure serving the local communities with our buses. We have put one hundred per cent effort in to trying to give a good, reliable service which local people have always told us we do. We are all very sad to be losing these services.’

The news has been met with sadness on social media from people in the local communities who use frequently rely on these services. Many users have praised Paul and his team stating they are ‘gutted’ to see Oakleys cease providing ‘the only reliable bus services’ in the wider area. Other comments have expressed concern over Plymouth Citybus’s future operation of these routes, particularly in light of increasingly frequent last minute service cancellations due to staff shortages. On Saturday, July 30, Plymouth Citybus tweeted 14 times listing various cancellations across their services throughout the day.

Paul said: ‘If problems such as these with cancellations and driver shortages persist, it proposes the possibility of a retender in less than eight years time.’