A host of bus routes in East Devon and Exeter are set to be improved thanks to £1million of extra funding poised to be splashed around the county.
Routes serving Exmouth, Sidmouth, Honiton, Ottery St Mary, Budleigh Salterton, Seaton, Axminster and Cranbrook are among those in line for a boost.
Devon County Council (DCC) has spending plans for 18 routes in this financial year, subject to the Department for Transport (DfT) approval.
East Devon bus services in line for improvements are:
157 Sidmouth – Newton Poppleford – Colaton Raleigh – Otterton – East Budleigh – Budleigh Salterton – Littleham – Exmouth.
There is currently a bus for the full route between Exmouth and Sidmouth every two hours in the summer only on Sundays. The proposal would make this an all-year round service. It comes from a public request and as a response to the level of passenger demand.
4 Exeter – Cranbrook – Ottery St. Mary – Honiton – Axminster.
An additional peak-hour bus from Axminster and Honiton via Cranbrook to Exeter is proposed in response to passenger demand, especially on peak worktime buses to and from Exeter, where there is currently overcrowding. This particular service improvement will benefit the most people in the shortest time and the successful use of support funds towards bus services has generated in this area the highest proportion of sustainable travel in Devon.
885 Seaton – Colyford – Colyton – Whitford – Musbury – Axminster.
The service runs from Monday to Saturday every hour and the proposal would keep this going as the frequency is currently funded by developer contributions that run out in October 2020. Assessment of passenger growth and potential for commercial viability means that the service should continue.
B Pinhoe – Exeter City Centre – Marsh Barton – Exminster.
The proposal is to maintain the current Sunday service along the entire route as the Exeter – Exminster section would otherwise have been withdrawn due to expiry of Section 106 developer funding in October 2021. This is in response to levels of passenger usage.
H Digby – Broadfields – RD&E Hospital – Exeter City Centre – Exeter St David’s Station.
An additional hourly service between City Centre – Exeter St David’s – Cowley Bridge is proposed.
694 Honiton – Awliscombe – Dulford – Kentisbeare – Cullompton – Plymtree – Payhembury – Feniton – Honiton
682 Marsh – Yarcombe – Upottery – Rawridge – Monkton – Otter Valley Caravan Park – Honiton.
Currently there is one bus each way on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays (694), and Tuesdays only (682), but the proposal would see the 694 increase to being daily, Mondays to Saturdays, and 682 to Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The 694 is, in terms of daily passenger usage, Devon’s strongest less-than-daily service.
Other Exeter routes set to get a boost are:
82 Exeter – Exeter St. David’s Station – Moretonhampstead – Postbridge – Princetown – Yelverton – Tavistock.
The service currently does not exist, but the proposals would see a Saturday summer service between Easter and October introduced. It would be a partial reinstatement of a service withdrawn in 2015, would promote tourism to Dartmoor and increase connectivity for those towns.
1 Exeter – Broadclyst – Bradninch – Cullompton – Willand – Uffculme – Sampford Peverll – Halberton – Tiverton.
The proposals would see an enhanced evening service to the existing route, the creation of an Exeter – Willand route, and see certain journeys extend to Tiverton.
5B Exeter – Crediton – Copplestone – Bow – North Tawton – Winkleigh – Dolton – Beaford – Torrington – Bideford – Instow – Fremington – Barnstaple.
A Sunday and bank holiday service would be created.
6 Exeter – Tedburn St. Mary – Cheriton Cross – Crockernwell – Whiddon Down – Sticklepath – Okehampton – Holsworthy – Bude.
The proposals would see a minor increase in the service to Bude, which currently gets bus services from Exeter every two hours. It is in response to the bus company commercial service review and range of representations arising and the service development is being done jointly with Cornwall Council.
DCC says that, while cash it has to spend is a significant amount, it will not transform the whole bus network.
The proposals would see some routes that were withdrawn in 2015 return, while others would see a more frequent service provided or services extended to run on Sundays.
A spokesperson said: “Our proposed approach is therefore to use the funding to strengthen or restore services which demonstrate the strongest likelihood of being sustainable, either commercially, or within ongoing support budgets and criteria.
“The best and most realistic prospect is therefore to mostly build on existing services rather than start entirely new ones where the risk is greater.
“In support of this approach, the DfT guidance states that consideration should be given to how the funding can be used to benefit the most people most quickly, including extending the existing hours or frequencies of current services.
“At the same time, a rural County such as Devon will reasonably expect the benefit to show a geographical spread and not be concentrated purely on the most viable urban and inter-urban routes.
“We believe the best way of addressing this is to ensure that the service proposals bring a consequential benefit for those rural areas along the route.”
Anyone wishing to respond to the consultation can do so here.
The closing date for receipt of comments is Friday, April 24, to allow time for further due consideration by the Devon County Council cabinet prior to meeting the Government’s deadline for submission of spending plans.
The implementation of these plans could be severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis, but, at the time of writing, the DfT has confirmed that the submission deadline still stands.