East Devon to benefit from £494,000 transport project to tackle loneliness

East Devon is to benefit from a unique transport project aimed at tackling loneliness in young people and the over 55s.

Devon County Council (DCC) has been awarded more than £400,000 from the Government’s Tackling Loneliness with Transport (TLwT) fund to set up a pilot project – which includes sociable train travel between Axminster and Exeter.

It is one of only 12 projects across the country to have successfully bid for Tackling Loneliness with Transport (TLwT) funding.

Devon was the only county council to have been chosen out of more than 200 applicants.

DCC said its pilot project involves ‘a variety of support’, aimed at reducing loneliness in the over-55s and young people aged 16-24.

The county council will be working with Devon Communities Together, Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, One Northern Devon and WestBank Community Health and Care to deliver the help.

The project includes:

  • The use of travel trainers – support to help passengers gain confidence in using public transport, understand timetables, buy tickets, use travel passes, encouraging independent travel.
  • Introducing a travel buddy system, plus on-board support from staff/volunteers. This builds on the successful trial of the “Chatty Bus” services in the Exeter to Exmouth area to encourage sociable travel.
  • Working with public and community transport operators on driver training projects with the aim of improving the journey for passengers.
  • Launching a community grants fund, focussing on ‘cold spots’ in the county with limited or no public transport services.
  • Targeting young people with a community rail project in Okehampton and a Try the Train initiative on the Waterloo line between Exeter and Axminster in East Devon. Community rail ambassadors will be appointed to help boost confidence and make the railway accessible to all.

Councillor Andrea Davis, DCC cabinet member for climate change, environment and transport, said: “Loneliness is unfortunately something that can affect us all and is all too prevalent in society today.

“This funding will enable us to roll out a number of innovative schemes that will provide targeted support across Devon.

“Our pilot programme is designed to help combat loneliness in Devon through transport opportunities, and try to make life a little brighter for residents.”

She added: “Transport is often forgotten about when implementing new ideas or programmes to help people, and it’s sometimes also seen as a barrier to participation.

“We believe our initiatives will help our target audiences of the elderly and young adults, and also reach deeper into communities to help identify those who really need support.”

Devon Communities Together will recruit travel trainers and Devon County Council will develop resources based on its own experience of travel training for Devon students.

Nora Corkery, Chief Executive of Devon Communities Together (DCT), said: “As Devon’s Rural Community Council, DCT has been working for many years to support communities with issues around loneliness and social isolation, as well as access to local public transport – all of which can present huge challenges for our rural communities.

“We’re delighted to be working with Devon County Council on this exciting new programme.

“We are looking forward to working together with communities and helping to create positive change for local people.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) has allocated nearly £5 million to 12 organisations across England to support projects targeted at groups who are most at risk of loneliness – including people living in rural areas, the elderly, or those with a physical and mental health condition.

The projects will be evaluated to help inform future transport policies and interventions which can help to reduce loneliness.

Minister Baroness Vere said: “Loneliness affects millions of people across the UK. Transport can help us solve this problem by connecting us to people, places and experiences.

“This is a great opportunity to improve future transport schemes and shape the national conversation on loneliness.

“We will continue to work closely with transport providers and community groups to build an inclusive and accessible transport network.”

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