THE inaugural route of the Holsworthy Rural Community Transport’s (HRCT) new ‘Town Shuttle’ took place on Monday, March 13.
The event was attended by the town mayor, the MP for Torridge and West Devon along with Torridge District and Devon County Councillors, the HRCT team and two members of the public.
Although only a small turn out of passengers for the first trip, chairman of the HRCT Martin Prentice said he was ‘pleased’ with what they had achieved.
At 8.45pm outside the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Holsworthy, the official starting point of the new shuttle, Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon, Geoffrey Cox, called out ‘hold that bus!’ as the first passengers climbed on board the new town shuttle without him.
Although he was unable to join the first passengers, Mr Cox told the Post: “I think this is a wonderful achievement by the people of Holsworthy and the Holsworthy Rural Community Transport organisation.
“I think it is fantastic we have had both public and lottery support for this venture. It is such an essential and important service that the people in this area will benefit from.”
Unfortunately Mr Cox was required in Westminster that afternoon to discuss Brexit and was unable to join the first passengers on the journey to The Cow Shed Cafe at the Livestock Market for breakfast, he added: “I wish I could join you all but Brexit is interfering with breakfast!”
Stepping onto the bus, Ken and Kathy Watson said they were ‘delighted’ to be the first fare paying passengers on the inaugural ‘flight’ of the new Holsworthy Town Shuttle service organised by HRCT. They said: ”Congratulations to all concerned and especially Martin Prentice and his team for this excellent new facility.”
Joining the first fare paying customers of the town shuttle on its maiden voyage was mayor of Holsworthy Jon Hutchings. After the journey he said: “It is a great asset for the town and I really hope people use it — it will be a use it or lose it situation.
“Congratulations have to go to the Holsworthy Rural Community Transport team for getting the grant and being able to supply the town with this valuable service.
“It gives good access to the town for local people and access to the medical centre if they time it well with their appointments — shame the same can’t be said really about the Community Hospital at the moment.”
Cllr Hutchings went on to share his thoughts on the journey and how well it had gone, he said: “Overall, the sun was shining and it was a nice little drive around Holsworthy. It was also great to have the opportunity to get to see some of the roads and areas in my town I don’t normally get to see — whilst pointing out all the potholes to our Devon County Councillor!”
After disembarking the bus at the Livestock Market — and taking a mental note of the mayors pothole queries — Conservative Devon County Councillor Barry Parsons told the Post why he felt this service was so important, he said: “I think it is fantastic that we, in such a rural area, have a unit led by Martin that is so tight and so involved and focused on doing something for the community.
“I see strategically services falling away in rural areas and as a county council we try to work in different ways to tackle this, but to see a community come together to help themselves is incredible and commendable!
“We really have to push this service, it is so important for a rural area like Holsworthy to stay connected. I have pushed for this too and have, on an ongoing basis, put money into community transport.
“We need it as much as anywhere in the county and it will be such a positive for the town to have an additional service that comes back and forth from the Livestock Market. What this place [West Devon] does best is farming and we need to be supporting that. The new shuttle service will transform this place [the Livestock Market] into a centre of the community instead of just an economic centre.
“We are proud of this service and it just fits well with Holsworthy and its needs — I have to say well done to Martin and Holsworthy Rural Community Transport for all their hard work.”
Multi-tasking chairman, treasurer and fundraiser for HRCT, Martin Prentice, has spent many years getting this service together for the town. On the day he said: “This shuttle bus is really a first for Holsworthy, I don’t think there has been another like it in the town. It really bucks the trend as many other places have had to close their bus routes and we are starting one up.
“I am pleased with what we, at the Holsworthy Community Rural Transport, have done and achieved. Bit disappointed we didn’t get more passengers on the first route but I am hopeful it will pick up in the next few weeks once people are more accustomed to the service.
“The real benefit of the service will come when people want to get to appointments at the medical centre, we had hoped to take passengers up to the community hospital as well but that might not happen for a while.”
Explaining a bit of the history behind the project Mr Prentice said: “This has been a long time coming. When Tesco and the £50,000 in the [Section]106 for transport in the area didn’t come we were at a lose of what to do, things were supposed to get going with the scheme then.
“Later I found out that the Department for Transport had a fund, but it was very competitive. They had funding for 300 buses across the country. I chanced my arm and applied for two. I thought if I applied for one I wouldn’t get any and if I applied for two I would only get one — to my surprise we were awarded two buses. One we have used to replace the old ‘Ring & Ride’ service and the second is this new Holsworthy Town Shuttle.”
Looking to the future Mr Prentice said: “It can’t run at a loss, we have to break even and cover costs to make sure this service can continue. We have set the fare as low as we can to ensure everyone can use it. It should benefit most people but the message really is, and we keep saying this, use it or lose it!”
Mr Prentice added that the service will cost £30,000/annum to run. They have set the fare at £1/single journey, children 50p with under 5s free.
Mr Prentice now hopes that businesses will sponsor the shuttle bus through their offer of advertisement space.
If any business is interested in sponsoring Holsworthy Rural Community Transport’s service, and having their business logo on one of the side’s of the new shuttle bus, they can contact Mr Prentice on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Timetables can be collected from HRCT office in the Square or from the library and there will be a leaflet drop including timetable to every house in Holsworthy the week before the service starts.