County Council welcomes commitment to examine rail network resilience
Posted on: 8 January 2013
Devon County Council has today (Tuesday 8 January) welcomed a double boost for rail services in the county.
On a visit to Devon for the official opening of the newly upgraded M5 Junction 29, Transport Minister Norman Baker gave a commitment to hold talks with Network Rail to look at improving the resilience of the rail network at Cowley Bridge in Exeter.
His announcement coincides with Network Rail’s proposals for future investment for the county’s rail network, which refers to Devon County Council’s Devon Metro plans. These include:
Eight trains per day in each direction on the Exeter to Okehampton service with an assumed start date of December 2014, subject to rolling stock availability.
An additional train per hour between Newton Abbot and Paignton.
Planned reinstatement for passenger services between Tavistock and Bere Alston from December 2016.
An additional train per hour on Sundays on the Exeter to Exmouth line (funded by the Avocet Line Community Rail Partnership), creating a two train per hour standard pattern. Again subject to rolling stock availability, this could start in December 2014.
Devon County Council Leader John Hart said: “We are determined to improve Devon’s economy for the benefit of our residents, our businesses and our visitors. We are preparing the way with the Devon Metro proposals and I am delighted to see these proposals within the Network Rail plans. We are committed to working with partners to see a re-establishment of the service between Exeter and Okehampton, and as part of these plans we have set aside money for a new station for the town. This will be a great help in our efforts to revitalise Okehampton’s economy and the re-opening of the Tavistock to Bere Alston line will also be a major boost to the West Devon economy.
“While I’m very disappointed that Network Rail hasn’t mentioned improvements for Cowley Bridge, which we all know is the weakest link for main line services between Exeter and London, I’m pleased that the Minister wants to look at this and we will continue to press for urgent improvements to this vital link. It is also a disappointment that the plans do not include the two trains an hour between Exeter and Paignton previously included in Network Rail plans from 2015.”
Councillor Will Mumford, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy, Enterprise and Employment, said: “The proposals are vital for Devon’s economy, which needs these improved links to promote further business growth. But most of all I’m delighted that Norman Baker has pledged today to ask Network Rail to look at the resilience of the rail network at Cowley Bridge. That’s the real issue that urgently needs addressing here for the benefit of Devon’s economy. We cannot allow Devon to be cut off from the rest of the country every time it floods – it simply isn’t sustainable.”
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, said: “We very much welcome these proposed improvements to the county’s rail services and infrastructure, which support our Devon Metro plans to help tackle congestion and keep Devon moving. We’ve seen in the recent flooding events how vulnerable Devon’s rail network is to disruption. It’s encouraging that the Minister is keen to take up the case and we welcome any help and support he can provide.“
In the Exeter district, the Great Western Route Utilisation Strategy predicts continued growth with peak rail passenger demand expected to grow by 41% between 2008 and 2019, equivalent to an annual growth rate of 3.2%. Off-peak demand is predicted to grow by 37%.Posted in: Environment