As major urban developments reshape the landscape of Exeter, a comprehensive study conducted by the University of Leeds Institute for Transport Studies and Friends of the Earth reveals a significant decline in bus services, raising concerns among residents and environmental advocates. The study, spanning fifteen years and encompassing data from England and Wales, exposes a 42% reduction in Exeter’s bus services since 2010, while neighbouring East Devon experiences a contrasting increase.
The heart of the issue lies in the drastic decrease of bus services in Exeter by 69 trips per hour over the past thirteen years, plummeting from 167 trips in 2010 to a mere 98 trips per hour in the current year. This decline stands as the most substantial drop in both proportional and numerical terms among the four Greater Exeter districts, surpassing the Devon county average by 10%.
A detailed interactive map, crafted by the researchers, delineates the data on transport authority, parliamentary constituency, local authority, and neighbourhood levels, providing a comprehensive visual representation of the alarming trend. Notably, many of the worst-affected neighbourhoods in Exeter coincide with areas earmarked for major urban developments or those currently under construction, including locations within or adjacent to the Heavitree & Whipton Active Streets trial area.
In the wake of these findings, Friends of the Earth highlights a critical Transport for Quality of Life report, asserting that addressing the decline in bus services necessitates two pivotal changes. Firstly, a substantial infusion of funds is imperative, with approximately £2 billion in annual capital investment and an additional operating expenditure of roughly £7.5 billion per year required. These financial commitments are seen as crucial to facilitate a shift of over 47 billion annual car driver and passenger kilometers to public transport by 2030.
Secondly, the report emphasizes the urgency of revisiting the 1980s bus services deregulation. Advocates argue for the reinstatement of local transport authorities’ power to franchise bus services, enabling them to manage these services as a public utility. This proposed measure aims to counteract the adverse effects of deregulation, offering a strategic solution to revive and enhance the bus services that communities rely on.
The implications of dwindling bus services extend beyond inconvenience, impacting the fabric of communities and posing challenges to sustainable urban development. As Exeter undergoes significant transformations with major developments on the horizon, the accessibility and efficiency of public transport become paramount considerations for fostering a liveable and environmentally conscious city.
Residents in affected neighbourhoods express their dismay at the diminishing bus services, citing increased commuting times, reduced accessibility, and heightened reliance on personal vehicles as immediate repercussions. Additionally, environmental advocates stress the broader consequences, as a decline in public transport usage contradicts efforts to reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainable modes of transportation.
The Heavitree & Whipton Active Streets trial area, intended to encourage alternative modes of transportation, now faces a paradoxical scenario. While the initiative seeks to promote active travel and reduce reliance on private vehicles, the diminishing bus services challenge the viability and inclusivity of such projects, potentially limiting options for residents who rely on public transportation.
Local authorities are urged to consider the broader implications of declining bus services, especially in areas earmarked for urban development. Balancing the needs of a growing city with sustainable and accessible transportation options is crucial for ensuring that Exeter evolves into a model of urban development that prioritizes the well-being of its residents and the environment.
In conclusion, the revelation of a substantial decline in Exeter’s bus services underscores the intersection of urban development, public transport, and environmental sustainability. As stakeholders grapple with the implications, the call for increased funding and revisiting deregulation becomes a rallying point for those advocating a resilient and sustainable future for Exeter’s transportation infrastructure.