‘Big improvement’ expected from 2017 should see bigger and better trains heading to North Devon

Rail passengers can look forward to hugely improved services on the Tarka Line from May 2017.

Bigger, more comfortable and frequent trains will be rolled out on the Barnstaple to Exeter line thanks to a major shake up of services that will see new electric trains introduced on the Paddington line.

Operator First Great Western will move around existing rolling stock, meaning North Devon and other local lines will receive Class 158 trains currently being used on the Cardiff to Bristol and Portsmouth line.

They won’t be able to use their full 90mph capabilities on a branch line, but Richard Burningham at Devon and Cornwall Rail Association said it was still a massive boost for the Tarka Line.

“They are built for long distance so it will be a big difference for the Tarka Line,” he said.

“It’s something we and the Tarka Rail Association have been lobbying for, so it is really good news. Hopefully it will mean faster trains, but it will mean more seats and more comfortable trains.”

The Tarka Line could also see a full daytime hourly service from December 2018 when a full electric service is rolled out on the Paddington, Bristol and Cardiff lines, making more trains available.

The changeover is likely to be staggered, with some of the current trains slowly being phased out to make way for the new stock.

“These are things First Great Western has committed to in their new franchise with the Government,” said Mr Burningham.

“It will be a big, big improvement, people will really notice.”

Subject to Government approval, the main line services from Paddington to Penzance will see brand new and faster Hitachi AT300 trains capable of up to 125mph, helping to cut journey times.

First Great Western said from 2018 passengers could expect more direct trains into Devon and Cornwall, doubling the number of trains into and out of Cornwall, and reducing journey times between Paddington and Penzance by up to 14 minutes.