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More than one million people are living in 'transport poverty'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 12, 2012

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Well over a million people in Devon and Cornwall are living in "transport poverty" which puts vital access to work and healthcare at risk.

Poor access to public transport and the rising costs of running a car, combined with low salary levels, mean the rural Westcountry is particularly hard-hit, research by transport charity Sustrans has revealed.

Torridge in West Devon has emerged as the worst affected district in the South West, with a third of residents – 21,000 people – living in "severe" transport poverty, while more than 90% experience it on some level.

North Devon follows close behind, with one in five experiencing the most severe issues, while Mid Devon is next with 17%.

In Cornwall, the figures are not broken down to district level because the county is governed by a single authority. There, 9% – or nearly 50,000 people – were in the most severe category, while more than 85% experience some degree of transport poverty.

Sustrans is calling on Ministers to invest in public transport and safe walking and cycling routes, in order to give people alternatives to increasingly unaffordable car ownership.

David Redgewell, spokesman for the South West Transport Network, said the situation would only worsen after the Government refused to allow Stagecoach to buy out First bus group when it pulls out of North Devon this month. He said: "We're fearful that the Torridge situation could spread across the whole of the South West. Buses are the main form of community transport, and we need to be investing, not cutting services."

Torridge District Council leader Barry Parsons recognised the "hardship" faced by low-wage earners, and said the council supported the North Tamar Community Transport Association and the Torridge Community Transport Association in Bideford, which support those in most need.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, said the large, rural area was always going to see "intensified" transport problems, and the cabinet had not cut the transport budget this year.

"The dilemma facing rural areas is that low patronage on bus services pushes up the subsidy costs per passenger.

"That's why the County Council is endeavouring to take an innovative approach, with Fare Cars offering a cost-effective alternative in areas where buses may have had very few passengers." He highlighted community transport schemes including Wheels 2 Work, based in Torridge, which provides scooters for those in need.

Devon farmer Richard Haddock was involved in protests over rising fuel costs earlier this year, and said easy access to public transport was key to helping young people find work.

"Many rural petrol stations have closed. I know people who have to travel a 50-mile round trip just to get fuel."

Cornwall Council has invested more than £36 million in the rail network over the last decade, and had seen usage rise by double the national average. Last year, Cornwall's buses carried more than 12.5 million passengers, and the authority is investing in cycle and foot paths.

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  • thetalkmon  |  September 12 2012, 9:17PM

    JuliaCUK - I'm being slightly unfair in my statistics as I get diesel at wholesale price but at pump price its still only 11.7p a mile. I bought the car for £1500 and gave it a service with quality oil and filters and drive economically. I see so many people accelerate then break constantly wasting so much fuel. I drive no slower than these people I just drive at a more consistent speed planning ahead.

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  • MrMeMeMe  |  September 12 2012, 7:27PM

    I'm in big trouble myself since being assessed as ' helicopter poor ' ...

  • JuliaCUK  |  September 12 2012, 4:51PM

    Less than 10p a miles in fuel? That means your Vectra is getting over 65mpg at current petrol prices by my calculation. Ho do you manage that?

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  • nick113  |  September 12 2012, 3:56PM

    @Richard Haddock. "Many rural petrol stations have closed. I know people who have to travel a 50-mile round trip just to get fuel." I don't believe you. Tell us where in Devon or Cornwall there is any house which is more than 25 miles from a petrol station.

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  • thetalkmon  |  September 12 2012, 12:56PM

    Cars are cheap if your sensible. I'm 22 and recently bought a Vauxhall vectra. It costs less than 10p a mile on fuel and insurance is £460 a year. That's only £38 a month plus I do all my own repairs and servicing which saves me a lot of money compared to the rip off garages and I know the work is done properly!

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