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New twist in Exeter car ban saga

Taxis will be allowed through the roadblocks from next month

A new twist in Exeter's long-running car ban saga means taxis will be allowed to go through the city's controversial ‘bus gate’ roadblocks after passengers and drivers complained.

Journey times have got longer and fares have soared since August, when a number of roads through Heavitree and Whipton were blocked as part of an ‘Active Streets’ pilot scheme aimed at cutting pollution and making residential streets safer.

Some taxi drivers have said they will no longer accept jobs in the pilot area.

Protesters say the so-called Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) project is causing more problems than it solves, creating traffic jams and pollution on roads around the edges of the closed area.

'Stop The Block' campaigners lobbied city councillors this week and told Radio Exe of a disabled woman whose taxi fare to a church community cafe had tripled from £6 to £18 as the driver was forced to go around the outside of the LTN.

Now Devon County Council says it has listened to people’s concerns and will allow Hackney carriages and private hire vehicles to use the bus gates from Thursday, 9 November.  The gates were introduced to allow access for buses and emergency services.

A County Hall spokesman said that from the outset the Active Streets pilot had been ‘experimental’, and would be closely monitored before any decision was taken on making it permanent.

The effect on taxi users had been an ‘emerging theme’, said the spokesman.

County council Labour leader Carol Whitton (St David’s and Haven Banks) is vice-chair of the Exeter highways and traffic orders committee which launched the trial. She said: “We’re grateful for everyone’s feedback so far as part of our ongoing consultation,

“One of the recurrent themes we’re hearing is the difficulty that some people are having with their taxi journeys and parents of young people with disabilities, for example, have said that they’re finding the extra time in the taxi stressful for their child and costly.

 "We think it's an important decision and we will make the amendments to the experimental traffic orders as quickly as we can and to put up new signs to allow taxis to start using the bus gates from Thursday, 9 November.”

Jonathan Kellaway, speaking on behalf of drivers on the Exeter Hackney Carriage Forum, said he welcomed the change of heart.

Taxi drivers will need to display special stickers to be able to use the bus gates.


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