Devon bus company Stagecoach South West has been criticised for not turning up at a council meeting to discuss its services in Exeter.

The city’s highways and traffic orders committee was given several days’ notice that managing director Peter Knight wouldn’t be at their meeting on Friday, April 21.

But one councillor described it as  “simply not good enough” that the company sent no one in his place.

Members' questions about the service will now be forwarded on to Stagecoach for written responses.

The company doesn’t have to send anyone to the committee meetings, although it also now attends quarterly meetings of the new DevonBus Enhanced Partnership – an agreement between the county council and local bus operators to work together to improve local bus services.

However, expressing his frustration at the highways meeting, Cllr Rob Hannaford (Labour, Exwick) said: “Stagecoach is a large company. They can delegate other people to come along.

“I can talk about how bad the buses are until midnight, so you can send out for fish and chips because they are absolutely all over the place.

“Some days they’re too good, there’s too many of them whizzing around, and then there’s none at all.”

Referring to another councillor saying some buses turn up late, Cllr Hannaford added: “Well, quite frankly, a lot of them just don’t turn up at all, particularly in the evening which is a concern about safety etc.”

It comes after Stagecoach recently raised prices for many of its daily, weekly and monthly tickets across Devon, although fees for single and return journeys are not affected.

Customers can benefit from £2 single tickets through a government fare cap scheme until the end of June.

The company says price changes are because of ‘cost increases’ in running services and that it has previously frozen prices for three years for tickets accessed on mobile phones.

But Cllr Hannaford described it as adding “insult to injury,” adding: “They’re making [prices] even more expensive now for a shockingly bad service.”

He continued: “This is a huge issue in the elections on the doorstep. It’s up there with potholes and dog poo quite frankly – how rubbish the buses are.”

Mr Knight did appear at the last meeting of the committee in January, his first since replacing predecessor Mike Watson, when he said the company’s bus service in Exeter had improved.

He explained its staffing situation had got better and the amount of lost mileage on the network had reduced significantly, but did add that restoring bus users’ confidence will take time.

In response, Stagecoach South West managing director Peter Knight said: “I was pleased to be able to report on our greatly improved service delivery at the previous HATOC meeting earlier this year.

“We are continuing to see stability in the reliability of our services, with 99.3 per cent of our scheduled journeys currently operating.

“Our timetable changes on April 2, aimed at ensuring greater punctuality and reliability for our customers, are already having a positive impact on our ability to run a reliable bus service.

“Like our customers, we would like to see positive action to give people making a more sustainable travel choice, by using buses, given more priority and other steps to help reduce levels of traffic congestion.

“Ultimately, this is the key to delivering faster and more reliable bus journeys.”