Lockdown Eve in Exeter

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On 5 November England entered its second lockdown of 2020. Richard Sharman visited the city of Exeter in Devon on lockdown eve to see what the bus usage was like and what social distancing measures were in place in the city

On any normal day, Exeter is a bustling city with a population of over 129,800 people and an additional student population of over 25,200, with more than 5,400 students being from the international community. On lockdown eve, Wednesday 4 November, it was many people’s final opportunity to meet in large groups or go to certain shops that would be closed for the duration of lockdown.

This was certainly in evidence on the day, with large groups of students taking advantage of the many pubs and bars that were selling food and alcohol at half price to clear stock levels. By late afternoon a large group had gathered on the High Street to sing Wonderwall by Oasis, badly!

A recent repaint into local livery is ADL Enviro400 15888. RICHARD SHARMAN

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In terms of bus patronage, many of the city services were operating to full social distancing capacity with destinations set to Bus Full where this was the case.

One way systems for pedestrians were meant to be in place in the main shopping area, but not many people were taking notice of this advice. Shops were experiencing queues to get in, but the largest queues were encountered at card shops, I have never seen so many people carrying bags of helium-filled birthday balloons and numbers!

Whilst waiting for the mass departures of independent operators to leave the bus station I overheard a group of elderly passengers discussing how this would be their last trip to the city until the lockdown is over, as they didn’t want to go out during this period. I am pretty sure this trend will be replicated in many other areas.

In regards to the Paris Street bus station, it is now in its final weeks of operation as the new bus station, built on the top level of the original bus station is nearly complete, albeit providing a much-reduced capacity when compared to the original two-level facility it replaces. The new bus station has been a long time coming, having been delayed many times since the planning phase.

Exeter has an interesting bus scene, the dominant operator is Stagecoach South West who appear to be progressing well with repaints into the new livery, but additionally, several independent operators are serving the city from many rural locations, which is always nice to see.