Exeter regional transport & mobility

Notes 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.

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

More topic notes:

More topic notes are coming soon. These will cover Exeter regional arts & culture, climate & environment, economy & enterprise, education & skills and health & wellbeing.

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

Key documents

Recent stories
Net Zero Exeter logo

Comment  ⁄  Climate & environment

Is Exeter City Council going to abandon its Net Zero 2030 target?

Review suggests alignment with Devon Carbon Plan, currently aimed at 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050, citing "technical and financial challenges ahead", although change in policy would require decision by councillors after 6 May local elections.

Interim Devon Carbon Plan consultation responses net zero target date preferences

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Devon Carbon Plan consultation finds majority want net zero by 2030

Devon Climate Emergency Response Group questions whether 2030 "realistic" and suggests "palatable" compromise while only 13% of consultees support UK government's 2050 target.

Exeter City Council in session at Exeter Guildhall - Inauguration of Lord Mayor

News  ⁄  Democracy & governance

High Court rules council meetings must resume in person after local elections

Case seeking judgement to allow local authority meetings to continue remotely when temporary coronavirus regulations expire fails to override requirement for primary legislation.

Electoral Commission ballot box graphic

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

2021 Exeter local elections guide

Elections for Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and the Devon & Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner are taking place in Exeter on 6 May. Our essential election guide highlights wards and divisions to watch, changes taking place and how, when and where to vote.

Met Office graph showing 2020 global mean temperature difference from 1850-1900

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

World Meteorological Organization report confirms "relentless" intensification of climate crisis despite pandemic lockdowns

2020 set to be equal warmest year on record despite cooling La Niña while Internal Energy Agency warns post-pandemic economic stimulus expected to drive second largest annual increase in carbon emissions in history and UK emissions set to overshoot 2030 target by 40%.

Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

Comment  ⁄  Economy & enterprise

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Exeter City Council's Chief Executive uses statistics to show the city in a good light, but in doing so presents a picture which omits important information about the city's true position.

Recent stories
Net Zero Exeter logo

Is Exeter City Council going to abandon its Net Zero 2030 target?

Interim Devon Carbon Plan consultation responses net zero target date preferences

Devon Carbon Plan consultation finds majority want net zero by 2030

Exeter City Council in session at Exeter Guildhall - Inauguration of Lord Mayor

High Court rules council meetings must resume in person after local elections

Electoral Commission ballot box graphic

2021 Exeter local elections guide

Met Office graph showing 2020 global mean temperature difference from 1850-1900

World Meteorological Organization report confirms "relentless" intensification of climate crisis despite pandemic lockdowns

Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Join Exeter Observer


Support Exeter Observer

Featured stories
Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

Comment  ⁄  Economy & enterprise

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Exeter City Council's Chief Executive uses statistics to show the city in a good light, but in doing so presents a picture which omits important information about the city's true position.


Train at Okehampton Station in 2015

News  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Okehampton to Exeter "Dartmoor Line" passenger rail service reinstatement confirmed

£40 million Department for Transport "Restoring your Railway" funding to enable trains every two hours by end of this year, with plans to increase to hourly service during 2022. Stakeholders combine to get South West infrastructure needs onto Whitehall agenda.


Maclaines Warehouses beside Exeter ship canal

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Maclaines Warehouses development tests Exeter Heritage Harbour status

Decisions taken behind closed doors in favour of commercial interests threaten maritime and waterway heritage vision for Exeter’s historic quay, canal and canal basin.


Global lockdown pollution level changes

Comment  ⁄  Climate & environment

I'm a climate scientist – here's three key things I have learned over a year of COVID

A leading climate scientist's perspective on what the community has learned over the past year about the interactions between the pandemic and the current and future global climate.


Exeter Guildhall needs repairs

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

£37.5 million council maintenance backlog caused by underinvestment to be part-funded by asset sales

Exeter City Council has allowed property assets to deteriorate while prioritising new schemes including the £44 million St Sidwell's Point leisure centre, forcing it to identify assets for sale to pay its outstanding repair bills.


Exeter City Council offices on Paris Street

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Council pushes back on Liveable Exeter Place Board scrutiny following membership change

Exeter City Council has responded to an enquiry about disproportionate Church of England representation on the Liveable Exeter Place Board by accusing Exeter Observer of promoting a "partisan narrative" and claiming our public interest reporting "bears no resemblance to fact".


St Sidwell's Point development site outline aerial view

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter City Council executive members take direct control of city planning decisions

Council's executive now possesses majority on city planning committee, with council leader and planning portfolio holder also included despite national guidance, offering basis to challenge decisions and increasing democratic deficit.


Net Zero Exeter 2030 plan proposals vs Exeter territorial emissions vs Exeter carbon footprint bar chart

Analysis  ⁄  Climate & environment

Is the "Net Zero" Exeter plan fit for purpose? Part I: Exeter's carbon footprint

Exeter City Futures' carbon reduction plan ignores over a million tonnes of carbon emissions and massively underestimates the challenges facing the city. First in a series examining its flaws by Fridays For Future youth climate activists.


Food retailers at Queen Street Dining in Exeter Guildhall shopping centre

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Unelected Liveable Exeter Place Board created to oversee city from the shadows

Exeter City Council has convened an unelected board that meets in private, does not publish its discussions or decisions and is taking responsibility for major policies which will determine Exeter's future.


Department for Transport New Road Layout for Social Distancing coronavirus road sign

Analysis  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Coronavirus exposes council failure to deliver Exeter transport plans

Devon County Council's failure to deliver overdue Exeter transport strategy and cycling and walking plan has led to an inadequate response to government demands for emergency coronavirus road layout changes.


Pulling Road Pinhoe Exeter zero carbon housing development site plan

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Exeter's first "zero carbon" housing development includes 96 car parking spaces for 40 homes

Exeter City Council has approved plans to develop land at Pinhoe with a parking ratio of 2.4 cars per household as part of an "exemplar scheme for future residential development in the city" while accepting that zero carbon construction comes "at a cost to the provision of affordable housing".