Highway Issues in Exeter

Exeter is one of the most congested cities in England, especially during the morning and evening rush hour. Information from the 2011 census tells us that over 35,000 people commute into the city each day for work or education, mainly by car, and more travel into the city to shop and for business. In addition, with many new employment areas now outside of the city people living within the city travel out for work. This level of traffic causes significant congestion on most roads leading in and out of the city resulting in long queues and poor air quality from idling cars and commercial vehicles.

Devon County Council is guided by their Local Transport Plan 3 2022 – 2026 which sets out strategies relating to reducing congestion and highway improvement works. Whilst it has good aspirations the council’s delivery plan does not address many of the issues highlighted to reduce congestion in the city. The council have consulted on a new plan The Exeter Transport Strategy 2020-2030 in 2019, and we hope it will be published following the County Council meeting in April 2020.

Members of the society have undertaken research to understand the main cause of the congestion and what the alternatives are to travelling by cars, especially single occupancy cars. The overriding reason for travel to the city is work, with the city’s travel to work area getting larger because there are not enough jobs in many neighbouring towns. The City’s commercial success is the thing that is adding to congestion.

Whilst there are good rail links and a good bus network into the city, these have very limited capacity, and do not always take people to where they work. We believe that the capacity of public transport during peak travel times would have to at least double if the number of cars coming to Exeter is to be substantially reduced. But then there is the question of who will use these buses outside of peak times.

One of our conclusions is that people should be encouraged to car-share because this could substantially reduce the number of cars. But how such an initiative can be implemented and enforced is unclear, and DCC do not appear to have any desire to pursue this approach.