What transport in Exeter could look like by 2030

“On yer bike” – No Sidmouth or Seaton on the transport network – Owl

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

Park and ride sites on every corridor into Exeter, enhanced rail services, and a new single ticketing platform to boost the convenience of non-car travel into and around the city are all part of the long awaited Exeter Transport Strategy.

More than 14 months the plan was due to be adopted by Devon County Council, the Exeter Transport Strategy 2020-2030 is finally set to be agreed by the council’s cabinet when they meet on Wednesday.

The strategy set out ambitious aspirations to support healthy, active lifestyles, a growing economy and a positive response to reduce the carbon emissions from transport in Exeter and has been updated to give greater emphasis on reducing carbon throughout the strategy.

The strategy outlines that the balance of travel for Exeter residents has already shifted to a point where the majority of Exeter residents now travel to work by sustainable modes but that they still account for 35 per cent of car-based commute trips to a destination in the city

However travel behaviour differs significantly for commuters living outside the city, with 80 per cent of trips into the city being made by car and in rural areas, where there is limited alternative to car, the car dominance is even more prominent with over 90 per cent travelling to the city by car.

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It recognises the importance of supporting essential business travel and maintain efficient public transport corridors but that as the city is built upon a historic road network, is constrained by limited road crossings of the River Exe and has limited scope for additional widening and capacity improvements and building extra physical highway capacity is probably not possible within the city.

Central to the strategy is ensuring there is a comprehensive, accessible and coherent cycle and pedestrian network in Exeter that connects residential areas with schools, key economic hubs, public open space and transport interchanges so that 50 per cent of trips within the city are being made on foot or by bike.

The Consistent Standard of Sustainable Transport providing a Connected City Region across Exeter

The Consistent Standard of Sustainable Transport providing a Connected City Region across Exeter

When they meet on Wednesday, Devon County Council’s cabinet are asked to support the adoption of the Exeter Transport Strategy and that the contents in the strategy provide the basis for developing transport projects, and infrastructure in the Exeter and Greater Exeter area.

The plan includes:

  • The transport strategy will facilitate decarbonisation of transport in the Greater Exeter city region by providing a sustainable and reliable transport system, allowing people and goods to move around the network efficiently
  • Creating a comprehensive, accessible and coherent cycle and pedestrian network in Exeter that connects residential areas with schools, key economic hubs, public open space and transport interchanges so that 50 per cent of trips within the city are being made on foot or by bike
  • Progressing opportunities to remove or reduce traffic on some routes to create “green lanes” and support active travel access from villages on the edge of the city
  • A new, high-quality strategic cycle link creating a city region strategic leisure network to encourage short to medium distance trips from existing settlements into Exeter and the Exe Estuary Trail
  • Supporting enhanced bus frequency on key interurban routes, with an aim of achieving 15 minute bus frequency or better on key inter-urban routes into the city from Cranbrook, Crediton, Cullompton and Newton Abbot. This level of frequency provides a ‘turn-up-and-go’ service where users will no longer feel the need to consult a timetable.
  • Enhanced bus corridors and improvements at key junctions, with particular focus will be given to enhancing Heavitree Road to achieve more reliable journey times on a key, busy public transport route to growth in the East of Exeter and achieving an improved environment for residents, pedestrians and cyclists
  • Delivery of the cleanest bus fleet with onboard WiFi allowing more productive travel and reduced transport costs with a greater influence on the routes being run.
  • The continued improvement of ‘Devon Metro’ rail services improving the connectivity within the city region so that the towns of Cranbrook, Crediton, Dawlish, Dawlish Warren, Exmouth, Honiton, Newton Abbot and Teignmouth are served by at least half hourly rail frequency.
  • New rail connectivity to Mid Devon, with a station at Cullompton, will also be investigated.
  • In combination, the enhanced rail, bus and active travel links between key settlements and Exeter form the basis of a Connected City Region network
  • Park & Ride sites on all key corridors of Alphington Road, A377 to Crediton, B3181 to Broadclyst and A376/A3052 to provide a realistic sustainable travel option for those trips from rural areas into the city that can’t feasibly be served by traditional public transport services.
  • Potential of Park & Ride to also provide frequent cross city connections as well as from the city centre out to employment and amenities at Marsh Barton and Sowton / East of Exeter will also be promoted, and bus priority to increase attractiveness of new Park and Ride routes to the city
  • Refine and optimise bus routes with enhanced bus priority at major junctions of Exe Bridges, Clyst St Mary and Countess Wear and “Red Routes” on key corridors including Heavitree Road, Pinhoe Road and Cowick Street.
  • To protect and enhance strategic rail, road and air connectivity into the city and South West Peninsula so that it retains momentum and continues to offer an attractive place for sustainable growth.
  • To work with and support the private sector to develop innovative solutions in the city and in securing external funding for new initiatives and to share data with partners to improve collaboration and support innovation.
  • To facilitate an accelerated change in transport conditions in the city and to be more dynamic in testing and trialling of new measures and highway changes.
  • To look into innovative car parking strategies in the city centre, which encourages longer stays in the evening and off-peak, whilst discouraging car travel at peak times
  • To expand the electric bike hire to provide the largest on-street electric bike scheme in the UK and will continue to expand and electrify the already well utilised car club fleet
  • Exeter has an extensive bus network which together provide core elements to build upon to create a single ticketing platform that is right for the attributes of Exeter. The plan aims to introduce a new single ticketing platform and shared mobility to boost the convenience of non-car travel into and around the city
  • Improved IT systems to improve real time information, journey time reliability and payment methods.
  • The emergence of electric bus funding opportunities, along with electric car club vehicles and bike hire unlock the potential for the delivery of the UK’s first zero-emission transport subscription service.
  • Improved resilience, capacity and journey times on rail mainlines as well as ‘working office’ capabilities on new rolling stock, as well as enhanced resilience of M5 J29 – J31 / Splatford Split and to improve access to Exeter Airport by sustainable modes

Dave Black, head of transportation, planning and environment, in his report to the cabinet said: “The Exeter Transport Strategy focuses on improving travel choices, creating better places for people and taking advantage of technology opportunities to influence travel behaviour in a positive way.

“The focus is to address constraints on sustainable transport networks to provide the basis of a connected city region, deliver interventions that contribute to improved quality of life and to utilise technological advancements to integrate services and engage with people to influence how and when they travel.

“The proposals aim to provide an ambitious, but realistic, transport strategy that is embodied in the three key themes.

“Greater Connectivity, which this focuses on travel into the city from outside Exeter’s boundaries, by providing a consistent standard of frequency of both rail and interurban bus routes and delivering strategic cycle trails between key settlements.

“To capture those from the rural hinterland with limited sustainable travel choices, there will be a Park and Ride on all key corridors into the city.

“Greater Places for People, which relates to travel within the city, and focuses on increasing the number of trips made on foot or by bike and urban bus corridors. This will be done through enhancing pedestrian/cycling networks to connect residential areas and villages on the edge of the city to economic hubs, reallocating road space for walking and cycling, creating more attractive public spaces and working with operators to provide a reliable low carbon network of buses.

“Greater Innovation will see the Council looking to work with private sector partners to test and implement innovative technology solutions to make travel easier, encourage mode shift and help the city’s transport networks operate more flexibly and efficiently.

“The strategy has been well supported by the public and is aligned to current priorities in supporting a low carbon economy and healthy lifestyles. An updated Exeter Transport Strategy will ensure a transport strategy that is aligned with current local and government policies and enables the County to be opportunistic when funding becomes available.”

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The plan recognises that outside of Exeter, the towns of Newton Abbot, Tiverton, Cullompton and Honiton will experience significant growth and the new town of Cranbrook will grow to a size similar to Tiverton during the current Local Plan periods, and additional travel demand within these towns and towards Exeter will need to be accommodated sustainably.

But that although car ownership has been rising, car usage is falling, which provides a great opportunity to promote shared mobility, such as car clubs / bike hire and other non-car travel modes, as a lower carbon alternative to car ownership.

“Devon County Council has a strong track record of delivering transport infrastructure in Exeter,” the plan says. “Nevertheless, the transition to a carbon neutral transport system will require an accelerated change and a key challenge will be how best to embrace innovation and invention to support this transition and ensuring the safety of all users in a complex highway environment.”

It says that for the three key themes of Greater Connectivity, Greater Places for People and Greater Innovation, at least 70 per cent of respondents during the consultation phase expressing a level of support for each theme, that there was strong support for Park & Ride, active travel networks, and the rededication of highway space for pedestrians and cyclists in the city centre.

It adds: “Looking forward over the next 20-25 years, the numbers employed in Exeter are expected to increase by another 25-30 per cent. With existing transport networks already at capacity in peak periods and a need to ensure increased demand does not lead to increased carbon emissions, providing capacity for future growth will depend on effective sustainable alternative travel choices and more sophisticated management of existing transport corridors.

“Technology will unlock new ways to manage the network, such as real time wireless methods of corridor control, which could optimise the operation of the network, providing additional capacity and reliability on core highway routes. This could support reallocating road space for an improved walking and cycling environment on other routes.”

When the cabinet meet on Wednesday, they will be asked to give final approval of the Exeter Transport Strategy 2020- 2030.

Opportunities to align the delivery of the strategy with planned maintenance and/or renewals will also be identified, and the integration will ensure better value for money and reduce disruption for users of the transport network.

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