Stagecoach (Exeter) to report on service developments and answer Members’ questions.
Mr M Watson, Managing Director, Stagecoach South West, attended and spoke at the invitation of the Committee on developments affecting bus services and the network in and around Exeter.
Mr Watson reported on service developments, service reliability with recent improvements and enhanced working partnership with the County Council.
· from the end of October, a commercially sustainable network would be in place and staffing levels will be improved such that service delivery would be returned to pre-pandemic standards allowing concentration on growing patronage in 2023. It had been difficult to get to this stage against a backdrop of staff availability, increasing costs and lower post-pandemic patronage. A 10% pay rise and a £2,000 joining bonus to PCV holders would help ensure Stagecoach was fully staffed in the coming months;
· route B would operate half hourly between Exminster and the Science Park thus restoring the half hourly leg to the Science Park. Pinhoe will instead be served half hourly by route E2 as the E1 and E2 are extended back across the City by popular demand restoring direct links between Exwick and Beacon Heath. Some roads in Beacon Heath, not served by routes E1 and E2 would instead be served by new Devon County Council route F, which would also serve West Garth Road. Withdrawn services beyond Crediton and Tiverton were largely being covered by new County Council services, which had largely covered any broken links;
· further improved services involved the Alphington end of route A returning to a bus every 20 minutes while the Thornpark Rise end will be included on the R/S loop. This runs via Broadfields Road, restoring their direct link to Heavitree and also restoring the 30 minute frequency on the R and S. Meanwhile, route 4 will operate every twenty minutes from Cranbrook to St David’s and route 4A will run every 20 minutes from the Airport to St David’s thus giving a ten minute frequency between St David’s, the City Centre, Heavitree, Honiton Road Park and Ride and Skypark. This replaced the 56 and Honiton Road Park and Ride while the southern end of the 56 was picked up by a new County Council route;
· the details and arrangements for the Government’s £2 fare cap were still awaited. The details and whether Stagecoach would participate were yet to be discussed with the County Council;
· the changes to the P route allowed Stagecoach to operate it with one less vehicle, which meant it would be commercially sustainable. This did however mean that Charnley Avenue and Isleworth Road would remain without a bus service although those roads were less than 400m walk from either the E1/E2 or the P. Meanwhile, Okehampton Road would now be served by route Devon County Council route 173 as a replacement;
· the developments on the South West of Exeter were currently under discussion with Devon County Council on how best to serve them. It may involve extension or diversion of existing services;
· the new Marsh Barton rail halt would be served by a small diversion of the Green Park and Ride service. New stops were planned near the new station;
· improved communications to the public was expected via the new enhanced partnership scheme led by the County Council. Meanwhile, the integrity of data on the Stagecoach App would improve from 30th October alongside improved service delivery. Use of the interactive map was the best indicator of whether a bus was running or not; and bus station staff were updating the displays regularly to provide up to date information;
· the difficulties with the toilet provision at the bus station in Exeter was being addressed with the fitting of more robust barriers; and
· decreased evening and Sunday services in St Leonards were mitigated by service availability on Topsham Road and at Waitrose within walking distances.
Mr Watson reported that this was his last meeting and Members thanked him for his attendance, his useful updates and response to their questions.