Buses and trains work better when they work together


Luke Farley, GWR Transport Integration Manager, talks about the exponential growth in the number of journey opportunities by public transport.

At Great Western Railway (GWR) we are fortunate in having a rich seam of fantastic destinations to offer to potential passengers. However, in the mid-20th century, the closure of many railway lines reduced the reach of the railway to many areas both urban and rural.

The bus network offers a sustainable public transport option to many of those areas cut off from direct access to the rail network. By working together, buses and trains can provide many of the benefits of having a railway. In Devon, GWR has been working with local authorities and bus operators to bring the two networks closer together and expand the journey opportunities available.

There are a huge number of destinations available to both residents and visitors of Devon by making a journey combining train and bus. For example, a GWR train will take you from Exeter to Barnstaple where there are good bus connections to a myriad of places in North Devon including Lynmouth, Bideford and Westward Ho!

On the opposite side of the county, Plymouth’s railway stations provide good connections with buses that enable passengers to head to the beauty of Whitsand Bay and Rame Peninsula. In the summer, the ‘Ocean City Sights’ open top bus will take you from Plymouth station to attractions such as the Barbican, Hoe and Royal William Yard. How fantastic that GWR can promote these destinations to its own passengers.

GWR has been working on what have been informally described as ‘Bus Branch Lines’. These are where a bus route is treated like part of the rail network in all but the fact it’s a train. 

We’ve also embarked on a marketing campaign which showcases the fantastic places to visit in the area. With the support of the local town councils, we’ve been able to promote the service on locally owned bus shelters. Having the spirit of the railway appearing in towns such as Kingsbridge, which lost its railway decades ago, has been something that all involved are really pleased about.

The result? Exponential growth in the number of journey opportunities by public transport along with encouraging signs that passenger numbers are increasing on all the routes that have benefitted from this partnership approach.

There is definitely a huge opportunity for further partnership working both for the benefit of Devon and for those who visit it. Compared to many counties, Devon is well served by bus and it’s important that the benefits of joining up this network with the wider reach of the railway are exploited as far as possible.

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