Monday, October 28, 2013
Urgent upgrades needed to cope with huge surge in demand for North Devon’s only rail link, says new study.
MAJOR investment will be needed to cope with the two million people who will be using North Devon’s Tarka Line by 2025, a local rail group has warned.
The Tarka Rail Association says conservative estimates show the number of journeys on the Barnstaple to Exeter line will increase threefold from current levels of 544,000 and urgent changes are needed.
It has published a strategy calling on Devon County Council, Network Rail and First Great Western or the future franchise holder to take action.
Severe overcrowding needs to be addressed, it says - the busiest trains should be lengthened and morning or afternoon gaps in the existing service need plugging.
Faster end-to-end journeys, four coach trains and more passing loops to enable a twice hourly service are also proposed.
A Saturday late evening and Sunday early morning service should be introduced, while measures should be taken to reduce journey times, such as installing new track plus automatic level crossings at Salmon Pool and Umberleigh.
Other suggestions include van extended platform at Eggesford plus a car park, as well as raised platforms at Copplestone and Newton St Cyres.
It says all this is needed because more than 14,750 new homes are planned along the Tarka Line’s catchment area and the North Devon population is expected to rise by a fifth in the next decade.
“With no plans to address increasing congestion along the A361 North Devon Link Road, the effective operation of the Tarka Line becomes more crucial by the day,” said John Burch, chairman of the association.
Co-author John Phillips said there was no question the rail link was going prove ‘even more vital’ in the future: “The County Council, Network Rail and First Great Western already appreciate how important the Barnstaple to Exeter line is in relation to the local network based on Exeter,” he added.
“What we’ve got to do now is put our case before the Department of Transport and we’ll be working with our friends in Parliament to make sure that message is thoroughly understood in Whitehall.”
The strategy can now be viewed online at www.tarkarail.org.