New Year MBE for Tarka Line stalwart

A RAIL enthusiast celebrating a 25-year involvement with the Tarka Line train service has been awarded an MBE in the New Year s Honours List. Richard Burningham s long association with the Barnstaple to Exeter line began with an eighteen month spell as

A RAIL enthusiast celebrating a 25-year involvement with the Tarka Line train service has been awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours List.

Richard Burningham's long association with the Barnstaple to Exeter line began with an eighteen month spell as British Rail's Travel Centre Manager at Barnstaple station in the mid 1980s.

As manager of the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership since 1998, he has worked to promote the service, which has seen a 92 per cent increase in passenger numbers since 2001, a greater passenger growth than any other route in the West of England.

More than 360,000 journeys were made on the line in 2009, a 12 per cent increase on the previous year.

Mr Burningham said he was "touched and humbled" to receive the award in what had been a "bumper year" for the non-profit rail partnership, which focuses on six branch lines in Devon and Cornwall.

"This is a massive honour for the partnership as a whole and caps what has been an excellent year, with the best ever train service on the branch lines and a big increase in passenger numbers.

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"More than 1.5 million journeys were made on the six branch lines in the two counties, up 19 per cent on 2008 and almost two-thirds more than five years ago.

"The highlight this year has been the best ever service on the Tarka Line, made possible only through financial support from Devon County Council. It's been a fabulous improvement that only goes to justify further improvements including more rolling stock and extra trains."

The rail partnership worked with other rail user groups, local councils and train operators to help launch an hourly service on the Tarka Line in December 2008.

Other work on the line has included running the Tarka Line Forum; publicity initiatives such as the Tarka Line Rail Ale Trail; and support for local community groups including the Tarka Rail Association and the Friends of Crediton Station.

This year, the partnership has worked with Craig Bulley, Barnstaple's Town Centre Manager, to mount a large-scale promotion of shopping trips to Barnstaple by train in South and East Devon under the banner "Barnstaple, best by train".

It has also helped the Tarka Rail Association with its award-winning Tarka Line Walks booklet, both with funding and distributing the guide, as well as a recent reprint of the booklet.

Mr Burningham, who was last month given a National Community Rail "Special Recognition" Award, said the achievements would not have been possible without the "stalwart support" of the partners and local county councils.

He said: "These three are among the most proactive councils in the country for working to make the very most of their rail network, not just through their support of the partnership but also the many schemes they have worked up directly with the rail industry.

"I would also like to say a big thank you to First Great Western. This year's improved timetables are in very large part down to them and they have consistently been extremely supportive of the partnership."

Other MBE recipients this year were former Royal Marine from Bideford, Robert Oliver David Graham, who received the award in recognition of his work for the Ministry of Defence.

Catherine Slow, from Barnstaple, was awarded an MBE for services to West Exmoor Federation of Schools, and Heather Crouch, from Beaworthy, was recognised for her voluntary services to sport as chairman of Netball South West.

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