New coach-rail services are set to be launched to help storm-hit communities in the south-west of England, Stagecoach Group announced today (26 February 2014).
The integrated service will provide a seamless link between London and the West Country using a combination of South West Trains rail services and megabus.com coaches.
It will provide significant extra public transport capacity to keep communities in Devon and Cornwall connected while one of the main railway lines is closed following the collapse of the sea wall and damage to the track at Dawlish.
The new services will use a rail hub at Honiton providing onward coach connections to a number of destinations in the south-west.
From Honiton there will be three routes: Cullompton-Tiverton-Barnstaple; Newton Abbot- Torquay-Paignton-Totnes-Plymouth; and Launceston-Bodmin-St Austell-Truro-Penzance.
The coach-rail services will operate Mondays to Fridays. On Saturdays and Sundays, there will be one departure in each direction on the Plymouth and Barnstaple routes only.
A fleet of five double-decker coaches will be used for the operation, offering 4,000 seats a week. Prices will start from £1 (plus 50p booking fee) and most passengers will pay less than £28, with the network offering journeys of up to around 300 miles.
Stagecoach also confirmed that it has increased capacity on its megabus.com services to Cornwall by 50% from around 400 seats a day to nearly 600.
Megabus.com provides around 70,000 coach seats a week to more than 60 destinations in England, Scotland and Wales. The company is continuing to monitor demand and will add further capacity if needed.
The transport boost comes after Stagecoach confirmed a package of measures on its local bus network in the south-west to deliver discounted fares on key routes in Devon.
Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Group Chief Executive, said: “This is an incredibly difficult time for people in communities in many parts of the south and south-west of England. Daily life is a real struggle for families in the areas worst hit by the severe weather.
“We appreciate that transport is absolutely vital. Despite the tough conditions, our megabus.com coach network is continuing to run a full service and more than 90% of our South West Trains rail network is open.
“Joining these networks up means we can provide the affordable transport options people need in these tough times. The priority is for everyone across the public transport sector to really pull together to keep Britain moving and make sure communities across the country remain open for business.”
Stagecoach, Britain’s biggest bus and coach operator, took part in a transport resilience meeting with Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin earlier this month. Representatives from the bus and coach industry reassured the Secretary of State that the sector was well placed to keep the country moving and provide extra capacity during the severe weather.
Earlier this month, Stagecoach, which operates around 330 buses across the south-west of England, announced discounts on single and return fares on key routes in Devon of up to 50%. The company has extended the travel zones covered by its multi-journey tickets to include areas affected by rail disruption. Stagecoach also confirmed that it is accepting First Great Western rail tickets on its bus journeys between Dawlish and Teignmouth while rail services remain disrupted.