Salcombe saw the presentation of an innovative zero emission bus last week with the aim of introducing a shuttle service in the Spring.
The vehicle, which can seat up to eight passengers, has a range of 260 kilometres (162 miles).
The Zero Emission Salcombe Transit (ZEST) is the brainchild of local businessmen Niall Rudd and Spencer Williams.
Both Mr Rudd and Mr Williams came up with the idea two years ago after seeing how popular electric bus services were in Switzerland. They then looked to use a similar electric vehicle. The need for the bus became more apparent to them after the first lockdown restrictions were lifted.
Mr Rudd said: “Everybody started coming back, but the park and ride wasn’t running at that point, so people were finding it really difficult getting in and out of Salcombe.”
Although the park and ride service is running again, service is restricted and parking is limited, while the streets in the picturesque coastal town are notoriously narrow.
Mr Rudd added: “If you’re staying or you’re a day visitor you’re very restricted in terms of how you get around, so the choice is to walk or to drive.”
According to a survey carried out by the two during this year’s August regatta, 87 per cent of the drivers that came into Fore Street were either looking for somewhere to park or were trying to get to the beaches.
Mr Rudd also warned about the economic impact caused by poor access to the town.
“A lot of the shops and pubs are really struggling to get staff to work in them because people don’t want to work in Salcombe,” said Mr Rudd, who is aiming to get a daily service running by next Spring. He also announced that they were still actively looking for drivers.
A second vehicle is planned for next April, but the two have set their sights even higher, announcing that Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Exmouth and Ivybridge have all shown an interest in the project.
Peter Lewis, a long-time visitor to the town, said the scheme was “absolutely” what Salcombe needed. “This is perfect for the tourist business and for locals. We need to see these in many more holiday resorts,” he said.
Councillor Rufus Gilbert, from Devon County Council, also attended the event and described the concept as “excellent”.
“It’s first class. This is exactly what we all need, not just Salcombe. This will be really great if we can roll this out further. It very much fits in with the aspirations of most communities. When it does get going, Salcombe will be very proud of this environmentally-friendly service.”
Rob Wheeler, councillor at Salcombe town council, said the scheme was “a great idea”. He said: “There’s a few more Ts to cross and Is to dot, but we’re looking at something that’s going to compliment the transport around town extremely well.”
The road ahead may get bumpier, though, as Mr Rudd revealed there have been difficulties in finding a permanent recharging spot for the bus.
According to Mr Rudd, South Hams District Council initially suggested using the local hockey club’s pavilion building. It also offered installing a three-phase relay into the building for the recharging point.
However, the trustees of the land, who are also district councillors, reportedly want to charge up to £6,500 for the use of the land, which Mr Rudd claimed is 15 times more than what it would cost to park overnight.
The leader of SHDC, Julian Brazil, was encouraging of the project but said the local town council “might be better placed” to deal with the matter.