Better rail services vital for South West’s economic health
Posted on: 7 March 2012
Devon County Council is demanding much better train services for the South West in the new rail franchise.
The authority says an improvement in rail services is vital for the health of the region’s economy.
County councillors are calling for faster journey times between the South West and London. And they want an earlier train from London so people can reach the South West in time to do a day’s work in Exeter, Taunton or Plymouth.
The current Great Western Rail franchise expires in April next year and the Government is currently consulting on the specification for the new franchise,
Devon’s Cabinet will consider their response to the consultation next Wednesday.
The Cabinet members for economy, Will Mumford, and transport, Stuart Hughes, will urge their colleagues to demand major improvements to the franchise.
They say the current service level should be the starting point and that the South West both needs and deserves improved services to remain competitive.
Cllr Mumford said: “The next franchise will last for 15 years. During that time there are likely to be big improvements in services from London to Bristol, South Wales, the Midlands and the North.
“It is absolutely vital that train services to the South West improve at the same time so that our economy does not lose out.”
Cllr Hughes said journey times could be speeded up by cutting out some intermediate stops between Taunton and Reading, improving track and signalling and extending electrification beyond Newbury.
There should be an hourly fast service to London and a second hourly service between Paddington and Exeter calling at intermediate stations. Some of these could be extended to Torbay giving a direct connection with Paddington.
In addition it was essential that train services catered for tourist journeys to Torbay, South Devon and Cornwall in both arrival and departure times and the adequacy of train accommodation.
Improvements in local train services are equally important, say the councillors.
Patronage on the Great Western network in the South West had grown significantly over the last decade and the new franchisee must build on this.
Councillors will hear that traffic on local trains in Devon and Cornwall has risen 91 per cent in the last 10 years.
Since 2006, passenger numbers have gone up 59 per cent on the Exeter to Barnstaple line and 29 per cent between Exeter and Exmouth.
Councillors Hughes said: “It is essential that the new franchise builds on this growth in traffic.
“There will be major growth in housing and employment over the life of the franchise and local rail travel has an important role to play in accommodating this growth.
“We are keen to see the local services grouped together as a single network, branded as the Devon Metro”
Councillors also want to see services timetabled for the new railway stations at Cranbrook, Newcourt and Marsh Barton at Exeter, and Edginswell near Torbay Hospital, the implementation of a service from Okehampton to Exeter and re-opening of the line from Plymouth and Bere Alston to Tavistock.
Councillor Mumford said: “We want to see an improvement in the quality of the rolling stock that serves the region and improvements in the condition of our stations, especially their parking facilities.”
Councillor Hughes said: “It is vital that people in such a big county as Devon can get about easily. They rely on their cars in many cases but with fuel bills soaring there must be alternatives.
“That is why it is essential that we press for significant improvements in our local rail services as well as those to London.”Posted in: Business and Economy