Exeter regional transport & mobility

A guide to help potential contributors develop their understanding of transport and mobility policy and practice in and around Exeter.

If you are considering contributing to Exeter Observer please see our contributors guide.

This guide is work in progress, and may require revision: please get in touch with any corrections or suggestions for additional content, including key documents.

Key actors

National

Regional

Planning and management

  • Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership – covers Devon, Somerset, Torbay and Plymouth. LEPs were set up to drive economic growth following abolition of regional development agencies - supports road building rather than rail (see projects) - Exeter City Council Leader represents Devon district councils on its board - operates Local Transport Board but role in transport schemes seems to be passing to Peninsula Transport cf. Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership Joint Scrutiny Committee, cf. Great South West APPG
  • Peninsula Transport – the shadow subnational transport body for the south west, a consortium of Cornwall Council, Devon County Council, Torbay Council, Plymouth Council and Somerset County Council, which works directly with the Department for Transport on strategic transport priorities across the peninsula; includes co-opted members from Highways England, Network Rail, HotSW LEP; approved six Major Road Network schemes for 2020-2025 for submission to DfT in July 2019 inc. A379 Bridge Road corridor improvements; “regional evidence base” used to prioritise with overwhelming focus on economic considerations e.g. commuter and leisure activity
  • Peninsula Rail Task Force - lobbying partnership of south west local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships seeking greater investment in regional rail network - apparently now dormant having fulfilled its function
  • Devon County Council (DCC) – the local transport authority for Devon (excluding Torbay and Plymouth) - responsible for all roads other than M5, A30, A35, A38, A303: maintenance, road building (with others), on-street parking, traffic regulation - lead role on such issues as workplace parking levy schemes, bus franchising, local transport plans, Exeter transport strategy, Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan - local government input to Peninsula Transport and HotSW LEP - useless web pages cf. InnovaSUMP project
  • Devon County Council Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee - one of eight covering the county, makes sometimes significant decisions concerning the county’s delivery as highways authority
  • Exeter City Council (ECC) – limited transport powers and duties, but can influence through provision of some off-street car parking and setting charges - as local planning authority can ensure transport issues are considered in determining planning applications but usually defers to Devon County Council as local transport authority - also jointly responsible (with Devon County Council) for air quality monitoring and the Exeter air quality action plan cf. Exeter air quality monitoring map, Exeter Green Party air quality monitoring and Exeter car parks map
  • Exeter Airport – a private business owned by Rigby Group, regulated in the air by the Civil Aviation Authority and on the ground (e.g. for expansion plans) by East Devon District Council as the local planning authority

Operators

  • Great Western Railway – part of First Group - operates London Paddington to Plymouth/Penzance long-distance trains, as well as the local network centred on Exeter (the embryonic Devon Metro)
  • Cross Country Trains – part of Arriva, which is in turn owned by DB (German railways) - operates usually overcrowded services from Exeter to Bristol, the West Midlands and many points north, as well as Plymouth
  • South Western Railway - strike-hit London commuter railway, owned by First Group and MTR Europe, operates the London Waterloo to Exeter service which provides a local service between Axminster, Honiton, Cranbrook and the city centre
  • Stagecoach – the principal bus operator in Exeter and much of Devon - some services (or parts of services) are supported financially by Devon County Council
  • Country Bus – Newton Abbot-based bus operator of mostly rural services, but runs three services within Exeter
  • Flybe – main operator of air passenger services at Exeter - was largest independent regional airline in Europe until sale to Connect Airways (consortium formed to make acquisition by Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Aviation and Cyrus Capital Partners via Luxembourg-based DLP Holdings) in 2019 - expected to rebrand to as Virgin Connect in 2020 despite continuing mounting losses which led to as-yet unfinished Government rescue … since entered administration

User groups

Others

Key issues

  • Limitations of rail: stations and lines inconvenient for integration with buses; change very slow (e.g. Marsh Barton)
  • Devon Metro still an aspiration
  • Bus service commercially driven, more freedom for operators than rail; limited subsidy
  • No coordination, e.g. joint ticketing for local journeys; responsibility for timetables
  • Traffic congestion; air quality and quality of life issues
  • Local transport authority (DCC) unimaginative and biased towards road building cf. Bus Services Act
  • Limited DCC progress on cycling infrastructure; LCWIP still not produced
  • District council (ECC) no real powers
  • Exeter Transport Strategy: rural/urban balancing act
  • Attempts at ECC/DCC joint working consistently fail
  • Reliance on GESP to fix things
  • Bus shelters inc. advertising screens, availability of service and timetabling information for non-Stagecoach operators
  • Telecoms masts/aerials esp. 5G
  • Pavements

Journalist interests

  • Impacts almost everyone: bus, car, walking, train, cycling
  • Almost everyone has an opinion
  • Involves major political judgements:

    • public/private/social enterprise ownership/delivery
    • who pays: users or communities?
    • priorities: HS2 or Dawlish avoiding line?
  • Long-running aspirations for integrated transport (London, statutory SNTBS cf. the rest)
  • Governance messy

Future challenges?

  • Ageing population; mobility aids
  • Extra housing/population
  • Shrink the Travel to Work Area
  • MaaS (Mobility as a Service) e.g. Helsinki

More guides

Guides covering other Exeter regional policy and practice areas are also being prepared.

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2022 Exeter local elections guide graphic

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Analysis
Exeter City Council 2022 annual meeting 17 May 2022

Labour councillors appointed to all fourteen city council committee chairs at annual meeting

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Exeter City Council party seat distribution after 2022 local elections

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