Okehampton’s Oxfam charity shop is reporting a negative effect on its business due to Stagecoach’s decision last year to reduce the bus service into the town.

The Okehampton branch has confirmed that the reduced bus service into the centre of town, which took effect in October, has resulted in falling staff numbers and shorter opening hours.

Shop manager Jasmin Shelley, said: ‘It’s had a really big effect on us. Some of our volunteers rely on the bus to come here. We’ve lost volunteers and they’re working shorter shifts so they can get home before the last bus and so we’re closing earlier.’

Stagecoach originally decided to reduce the 5A, 5B and 5C bus service into Okehampton, along with Service 6 and 6A, after concluding that there was not enough demand for the previous service to make it commercially viable.

The company argued that the change to the bus service would simplify the timetable, reflect passenger demand and ensure that the route remained commercially viable.

But Jasmin Shelley has argued that despite not being a particularly busy route, it is still a vital service for a rural community.

Since the change, Stagecoach’s Service 5 bus route no longer serves Okehampton, Barnstaple or Chulmleigh during the day though one morning and afternoon bus still runs to cater for the morning and evening rush hours and school runs.

Following the news, many Okehampton residents have reacted with concern as some elderly residents rely heavily on the bus service as they do not have their own transport.

Furthermore, those residents who do not drive have already cited feeling more isolated and have noted a change in their travel habits as they are forced to wait longer for a bus into town.

At the time, several Okehampton town councillors also highlighted concerns that the scrapping of the daytime Okehampton stops could also prevent residents from accessing vital healthcare if they were unable to drive to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital’s A&E department though councillors are continuing to battle to reopen Okehampton Hospital.

In response to these concerns, a Stagecoach spokesperson said: ‘Following a comprehensive review of our network, new timetables were introduced in October 2022 to provide a network that best meets the changing needs of the communities we serve.

‘We are very sorry if the residents of Okehampton have been adversely affected by the changes to the timetable of Service 6A.

‘It has been necessary for us to introduce timetables that would enable us to focus our resource where demand is greatest, whilst also maintaining vital journeys and connections. The service was simplified to reflect the level of passenger demand and ensure bus services remain commercially viable.

‘During this review, Devon County Council procured a Sunday and public holiday timetable, and a new Service 306 to operate between Okehampton and Launceston, which are provided by another operator.’