JOHN Burch, from Ilfracombe, is the new chairman of the 200-strongTarka Rail Association.

He took over from John Phillips at the pressure group’s annual general meeting.

The Tarka Rail Association seeks to improve service on the Barnstaple to Exeter rail line.

Speaking before an audience of TRA members, assembled appropriately enough on the platform of the former Barnstaple Town station, Mr Phillips reviewed some of the achievements of the past six years.

“I have been greatly honoured and proud to have been chairman of one of the oldest and best respected rail user groups,” he said. “During my time there have been immense strides forward which we have actively promoted or supported.

“I’m particularly pleased at the way in which the service has improved with more trains than ever before running seven days a week, which in turn has increased passenger footfall to the highest numbers since records began.

“The icing on the cake is the new Friday late evening train to start in December which will make possible an evening out in Exeter and which has been a long term goal. None of this would have been possible without the excellent relationship we have built up with First Great Western, Devon County Council, Network Rail and the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership.”

Mr Burch, a veteran of the transportation industry, said:“We have achieved much in the last few years, but in these difficult financial times we cannot afford to be complacent.

“We have aspirations for expanding the late evening and early morning service so there are plenty of challenges ahead. I look forward to serving our ever-growing number of line users.”