Exeter Green Party councillors have said they are hopeful ‘buses are moving in the right direction’ in the city following a meeting with Stagecoach boss, Peter Knight. The councillors say they particularly welcome the company’s interest in pursuing ideas for low cost travel for children and young people and restructuring fares to make them fairer for Exeter passengers. Greens also agree with Stagecoach on the need for better bus priority measures in Exeter to speed up services and improve bus reliability.
Green councillor Amy Sparling, who is a member of the joint Councils’ Highways and Traffic Orders Committee, said:
“We were pleased to hear Stagecoach report that their recruitment difficulties have been largely overcome and that they are now running the vast majority of services according to the timetable. This shows that buses are moving in the right direction in Exeter.
“What is needed now is an increase in service frequency. Stagecoach acknowledged that where frequencies increase, to every 20 minutes on the A route for example, passenger numbers also rise. It also seems clear that the £2 single fare cap has helped boost passenger numbers. Higher frequencies and lower fares are key to driving up passenger numbers.”
Councillor Diana Moore said:
“Mr Knight made clear his commitment to low fares for young people. As someone who has joined Stagecoach South West from Scotland, he pointed to the Scottish Greens policy, adopted by the Scottish government, where under 22’s travel free on buses. Greens successfully campaigned for a £1 add-on fare for children travelling with an adult in Exeter a number of years ago. It would be great to see this re-introduced to help families struggling with the cost of living and who do not own cars.
“There was also an acknowledgement that fairer fares in Exeter are needed as and when the £2 single fare cap introduced by the government comes to an end. In the meantime, Stagecoach also agreed to look into how the £2 single fare cap could be used on multiple journeys within a set time period, something Greens called for at the beginning of the year. ”
Councillor Carol Bennett said:
“Greens have long argued for better bus priority measures in Exeter to speed up services and improve bus reliability, and Stagecoach agrees. Bus priority measures have been stuck in the slow lane for too long. Devon County Council must play their part by introducing new priority measures and enforcing bus lanes so buses can travel freely without getting stuck in traffic. People are far more likely to swap the car for a bus if they can see buses getting there quicker and on time.”
Green councillors expressed their disappointment to Stagecoach over the cuts to evening and Sunday services, which has left routes in the city with only hourly frequencies.
Councillor Sparling said:
“We urge Stagecoach to introduce increased frequency on selective routes on a trial basis to see if passenger numbers increase. Evening services have suffered drastic cuts since the pandemic. This has created a downward spiral where reduced services have cut demand. As well as helping boost the night time economy, this is an issue of safety and security, especially for young people, women and those who cannot afford taxis.”