Bus lane improvements in Barnstaple and Exeter have moved a step closer.
Devon County Council’s Cabinet has agreed to advertise traffic regulation orders for a £525,000 bus lane scheme in Roundswell and a £400,000 scheme in Exeter City Centre which form part of Devon’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP).
Both schemes, which will use a share of the £14.1 million BSIP funding awarded to Devon by the Department for Transport last year, aim to achieve better bus journey times.
The construction of a new bus lane at Roundswell would improve bus priority on the 3.4km between Bickington and Roundswell on the western edge of the town and the bus station in the town centre – reducing travel times by around a minute on this corridor, which will benefit 126 buses per week.
The bus gate proposed in Exeter would establish a contraflow bus lane on the one-way section of New North Road between Waterstones and John Lewis, creating a more direct route into the city centre. This would save bus services around 2.5 minutes between New North Road and Cheeke Street when travelling to the Bus Station, benefiting 199 bus services every day.
Passengers would also be able to stop closer to High Street, with the potential for bus services to stop at Sidwell Street. The new route would reduce the number of bus services travelling on Longbrook Street, York Road and Bampfylde Street, improving air quality for residents, Exeter Mosque and St Sidwell’s Primary School in this area.
Councillor Andrea Davis, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, said: “We’re fully committed to helping reduce carbon emissions across the county and encouraging the use of public transport is a vital part of that. We were fortunate to receive Bus Improvement Plan funding and introducing these bus priority measures in Roundswell and Exeter will ensure faster and more reliable journey times.
“By making bus travel a more attractive alternative it will help tackle congestion. The Roundswell scheme adds extra capacity for all highway users and adds a pavement. The Exeter scheme will ensure there is less traffic passing outside of people’s homes which will improve their quality of life while also improving the bus user experience by dropping passengers off nearer the city centre.”
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Cabinet Member for Highway Management, said: “Devon’s Bus Service Improvement Plan represents a great opportunity to deliver improvements for people to use public transport and makes the most of the highway network for all users. I welcome the plans.”
Councillor Paul Henderson, County Councillor for Chulmleigh and Landkey, said: “I’m delighted that Cabinet has agreed to proceed to the next stage for this bus lane. Investment in infrastructure from central government is a rare beast for North Devon wards, so it was important to grab this opportunity with both hands. The creation of the new bus lane will to my mind not impact negatively on existing traffic flow and future proofs any potential enhanced bus service provision for the future. The creation of a footpath leading from the Roundswell roundabout towards the Sainsburys roundabout can only be of benefit for pedestrians who now won’t have to use a soggy verge or, worse still, actually walk on the connecting road.”
Councillor Su Aves, County Councillor for St Sidwells and St James, said: “I welcome the bus gate for New North Road. I first asked highways in 2017 if the route of these buses could be changed when the problem was first raised by residents. I hope this new bus gate really does succeed in its aim of increasing the reliability of these buses turning up on time at the bus station and at bus stops. Also, with fewer vehicles using the old route this should benefit not only the bus users but also the residents living in the area, especially those families walking to St Sidwell’s Primary School who have raised the concern over air quality many times. 76% of respondents to the survey were in favour of this change. I raised the safety of cyclists and pedestrians with highways officers so that they were an important part of how this bus gate was designed.”
Councillor Carol Whitton, County Councillor for St Davids and Haven Banks, said: “Buses are the most used form of public transport and I welcome any measures that will support and improve bus services for the many people in Exeter who use them. The new bus lane in New North Road has the added benefits of taking almost 200 buses a day away from their current route past a primary school and taking bus passengers into the heart of the city shopping area making it a significant improvement for residents and bus users alike.”
Although public consultations have been carried out on both scheme proposals, the traffic regulations will enable further consultation to take place.