Proposals to extend the length of time Exeter Bus Station can remain open during work to build its replacement are due to be discussed by the council’s Leisure Complex and Bus Station Programme Board.
Following the decision of developer the Crown Estate to withdraw its plans to create a retail and leisure development at the site, it is now possible to keep the bus station fully open until May 2018.
And a number of bus services may be able to continue operating from the current location throughout the time it takes to build a new station and leisure centre.
If councillors approve the proposals, it would mean the current bus station would not close by the end of February, as is currently planned.
Cllr Phil Bialyk, lead councillor for Health and Wellbeing, Communities & Sport, said: “We’ve been working on the plans since the Crown Estate withdrew its proposals for the site last year, and we’re planning to go out to tender for a new leisure centre and bus station in the spring.
“The good news is we don’t need to close the existing bus station from March as originally planned. We don’t need to do any preparatory works until May, so there is no need to close the bus station before that.
“After that, we will look at what is possible and examine how we may be able to keep as many services as possible in the existing station. We do not want to inconvenience passengers any more than we have to.
“The plans are progressing well, and we look forward to the day when work can finally get underway on these long-awaited and much needed new developments.”
The city council has been progressing plans to create the brand new bus station and major new leisure complex at the site over recent months. Work is expected to start on the developments later this year.
The council has been exploring ways to ensure that disruption to passengers is kept to a minimum during the redevelopment.
In October 2017 councillors voted to close the current bus station by the end of February 2018 at the latest.
The decision was based on a recommendation by council officers that demolishing the existing bus station buildings would help to de-risk the site and make it more attractive to future developers.
It followed the announcement by the Crown Estate to withdraw its plans to demolish the existing bus station and redevelop the area adjacent to the new bus station and leisure centre.
But after a thorough examination of all the implications of the Crown Estate’s withdrawal, the council is proposing to extend the life of the existing bus station.
The proposal, which will need to be approved by councillors, follows discussions with Stagecoach and Devon County Council as the highways authority, and after representations from passenger groups.
As the wider scheme will not be progressed by the Crown Estate, there is an opportunity to continue using part of the upper apron for buses throughout the build process for the new bus station, which would allow a number of services to continue operating from the current location and severely limit the amount of disruption for passengers.
The current buildings would remain in use as welfare facilities for Stagecoach throughout the time it takes to build the new bus station. This can be achieved by undertaking some minor works, including diverting utilities.
Bob Dennison, Managing Director of Stagecoach South West, said: “My priority has always been to put our customers’ needs first, minimising any inconvenience to them - a view which is shared by Exeter City Council. I therefore fully support their latest plans for the bus station and look forward to continuing to work in partnership with them on this project.”
The city council intends to retender for contracts to build the new bus station and leisure centre in the spring. Contractors are expected to be appointed in autumn 2018, with the main construction works starting this winter.
Construction work access to a section of the upper apron and most of the lower apron, to allow enabling works to be undertaken ahead of the main construction work, will not be needed until May 2018.
As part of the enabling works, demolition of the current waiting room will be required to efficiently build the new bus station.
If the proposal are agreed, it is planned that coaches would stop using the bus station beyond May 2018, and passengers will be picked up and dropped off at temporary stands in Sidwell Street.
Council officers are currently exploring the possibility that the upper apron can remain partially open after May, which might allow some bus services to continue operating there.
This arrangement would remain in place until the new bus station is ready to open.
Full details of the service locations will be revealed in due course, following discussions with Stagecoach.
The proposals are due to be considered by the Programme Board on January 30, and by the Executive and Full Council in February.