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Coachways vision policy context in South West England

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The current Regional Transport Strategy for South West England is set out in the 2001 policy note "Regional Planning Guidance for the South West" (DTLR 2001). While there are no specific policies relating to express coaches, there is a more general related aim (policy TRAN10) to “provide attractive and reliable alternatives to the private car” (DTLR 2001 p.94). The objective is to achieve this by firstly:

“encouraging the efficiency of public transport and reducing the impact of traffic congestion on bus and coach services by promoting bus priority measures, rail services into urban areas and park and ride facilities in appropriate locations” (DTLR 2001 p.94); and secondly by:

“developing improved public transport services through quality partnerships and encouraging rail and coach operatives to provide rural towns with a transport system that meets the community’s needs” (DTLR 2001 p.94).



This transport strategy is presently under review through the process of agreeing a South West Regional Spatial Strategy with central Government. In the associated updated draft Regional Transport Strategy (South West Regional Assembly 2006), there are two (again non specific) policies relating directly to coach travel: Policy TR6 notes that:

“Local Development Documents and Local Transport Plans should provide for the enhancement of long distance bus and coach services, and should make provision for interchange infrastructure at Strategically Significant Cities and Towns and other nodal centres on the Strategic Road Network” (South West Regional Assembly 2006 p.118).

And policy TR11, states that:

“Improved rail, bus and coach services will be sought to facilitate sustainable travel between settlements within the region. This will be achieved through the removal of infrastructure constraints; better quality trains and buses/coaches; enhanced station and interchange facilities, station parking and passenger information” (South West Regional Assembly 2006 p.123).

It is notable that there is little or no mention of specific long term scheme aspirations through which such improvements would be delivered. However, this new strategy is still under development and a government appointed scrutiny panel have responded with some quite serious criticism relating to how the region’s transport network has been evaluated. In terms of inter-urban transport, there is concern that separate policies relating to the road and rail network have been specified without due consideration of the important relationships that exist between modes. In their critique of the draft Regional Transport Strategy, the scrutiny panel note that a corridor management approach would enable "a more strategic and multi-modal approach to the consideration of the transport system in the South West” (South West Examination in Public Panel p.198).

Such a multi-modal approach had been adopted in the previously published London to South West and South Wales Multi Modal Study (Halcrow 2002). This study evaluated east to west movements (and vice versa) in the corridor and in setting out a “preferred strategy”, advocated a much stronger role for express coach services than is apparent in recent policy thinking:

“New Coachways at Taunton, Weston-super-Mare, Cribbs Causeway, Swindon and Chieveley will substantially improve access to the network, especially where these are served by feeder bus services, including the proposed new demand responsive local public transport services."

“The system of Coachways will allow a proportion of services to avoid congested urban areas so reducing journey times for passengers and costs for operators. Improvements to coach stations and interchanges and higher standards of vehicle comfort, coupled with more frequent services to the more popular destinations, including airports, will make coach travel more attractive to those sections of the market that rely heavily on this form of transport and provide a valuable travel option for others." (Halcrow 2002, p.49)

As well as recommending locations for five new Coachways, the study put forward a number of specific coach service improvements (see coach scheme aspirations for further information). However, these recommendations are yet to be accommodated in a specific south west regional coach policy framework.

This is in contrast to the situation in the South East of England, where regional planning bodies have supported an ongoing process of coach scheme appraisal since the multi-modal studies. This has yielded now quite well developed plans for a Thames Valley Bus and Coach network.

Regional transport policy timeline

Date Development
Sep 2001 A new Regional Transport Strategy is included in the updated Regional Planning Guidance for the South West (DTLR 2001).
May 2002 The London to South West and South Wales Multi Modal Study is published (Halcrow 2002).
Jun 2006 An updated Regional Transport Strategy is included in the Draft Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West 2006 – 2026 submitted to central Government for approval (South West Regional Assembly 2006).
Dec 2007 The Draft Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West Panel Report is published (South West Examination in Public Panel 2007).
Early 2009 The final Regional Spatial Strategy is due, but its publication is postponed (SW Councils 2010).
Sep 2009 It is announced that a further sustainability appraisal of the proposed changes is required before approving the final Regional Spatial Strategy (SW Councils 2009).

Recently completed coach schemes

There are no known recently completed coach network schemes in the region.

Coach schemes currently in progress

There are no coach network related schemes currently in progress.

Coach scheme proposals

There are no known proposals for coach network schemes in the region.

Coach scheme aspirations

South West England Coachways: The London to South West and South Wales Multi Modal Study (Halcrow 2002) recommended the construction of 5 new coachways at Taunton, Weston-Super-Mare, Cribbs Causeway (Bristol), Swindon and Chievely. The idea of a developing a coachway close to the M4 at Swindon, in conjunction with the Windmill Hill Business Park Travel Plan, has also been discussed in a Transport Planning Society paper by Ben Staite (2010).

South West England Coach Service Enhancements: The London to South West and South Wales Multi Modal Study (Halcrow 2002) recommended the following coach service enhancements:

  • improving integration between local public transport and express coach and bus services, particularly in rural areas (of Devon and Cornwall) (Halcrow 2002, p.35);
  • establishing Yeovil, Chard, Shepton Mallet and Exeter as key coach “nodes” (Halcrow 2002, p.29);
  • providing 16 coaches per day between Exeter – Heathrow and London (Halcrow 2002, p.29);
  • providing a minimum of two coaches per hour on the following routes (Halcrow 2002, p.31):
  London - Bristol;
  London - South Wales; 
  Heathrow - Bristol;
  Heathrow - South Wales; 
  London and Heathrow - Cheltenham and Gloucester, and 
  Bristol - Taunton - Exeter.
  • offering a minimum service frequency of one bus per hour on the following routes (Halcrow 2002, p.35):
  Exeter – Okehampton –Launceston – Bodmin – Truro;
  Exeter – Okehampton – Bude;
  Plymouth – Tavistock – Okehampton – Barnstaple; and
  Plymouth – Tavistock – Tiverton – Tiverton Parkway.

See also


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