DEVON is to receive almost half a million pounds for transport projects to help tackle loneliness.

The government grant of £493,894 is one of 12 projects across the country which are part of the Tackling Loneliness with Transport (TLwT) initiative.

Devon’s pilot project aims to evaluate how transport policies might cut the number of people feeling lonely and encourage independent travel.

It includes a community rail project in Okehampton targeting 16 to 24-year-olds.

Across Devon, other initiatives will support over-55s, involving ‘travel trainers’ to help passengers gain confidence in using public transport, understanding timetables and buying tickets or using travel passes.

A travel buddy system will provide on-board support from staff and volunteers, driver training initiatives and community grants for people in areas with limited or no public transport services.

Among the other projects are a ‘Try the Train’ initiative on the Waterloo line between Exeter and Axminster in East Devon.

Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership has previously trialled community projects on branch line trains to engage with local communities but these will be developed further in order to help individuals build their confidence when using public transport.

Devon County Council Cabinet Member for climate change, environment and transport, Councillor Andrea Davis (Cons, Combe Martin Rural), 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.

‘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.’

The Okehampton scheme aims to work with youth services to break down mobility barriers and widen youth engagement with rail.