‘Fewer stops’ needed for Tarka Line

New transport group has its say on Great western railway consultation.

A newly formed local transport group has called on the Government to radically restructure the Tarka Line to improve services for rail users.

North Devon Public Transport Users, which aims to improve and co-ordinate transport in the region, wants the Exeter to Barnstaple line upgraded, with fast hourly services, better trains and carriages plus fewer station stops.

The group has submitted its suggestions to the Department for Transport’s consultation on the refranchising of the Great Western service, which includes the Tarka Line, as a new operator is sought from 2013.

“It is absurd that a population in excess of 100,000 in North Devon only has a train service that takes well over an hour to travel the 39 miles to Exeter, on poor quality rolling stock which is all too often severely overcrowded,” the group said.

“We believe the line has for far too long been primarily regarded as a scenic rural branch. It is time that the DfT and Devon County Council agreed that its true potential is as an important inter-urban link.”

Although the campaigners say they understand major investment is unlikely at this time, they feel better use could be made of the existing asserts.

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“We believe that the smaller communities on the line would be better served by concentrating on three intermediate stations,” they said.

The group has also called upon Devon County Council to recognise this and co-ordinate existing bus services with the trains.

Meanwhile, district Councillor David Luggar will tomorrow (Wednesday) submitting a motion to a full meeting of North Devon Council calling on it to make its own representation to ensure the rail service is maintained and improved.

The motion says the service is “of vital importance to the local economy” and calls on the new franchisee to maintain current levels of service, but with new and additional rolling stock.

It also calls for the journey time from Barnstaple to Exeter to be reduced to 50 minutes and says the franchise agreement should ensure the new operator cannot be seen to profit if it fails to deliver.

Mr Luggar’s motion would also like to see investment in Barnstaple Station and sufficient provision for the carriage of bicycles on the trains.

Comments can be made on the Great Western consultation until March 31. To view, go to www.dft.gov.uk/consultations.

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