Pick the right fight
There are no closure plans, and the North Devon Public Transport Users group is unable to close stations. However, the group has stated its desire to close all but three of the lesser used unmanned halts to allow a service worthy of an important rail link between North Devon (Barnstaple) and Exeter.
As a user of the line, it is a policy I wholeheartedly support. What’s important is North Devon, from where the majority of passengers come. The petition comes from residents of Mid Devon – from stations which provide derisory levels of patronage.
Some passenger figures quoted by Tarka do not match my observations. Recent journeys showed that nine, three, six and four passengers in total got on the trains at the stations between Barnstaple and Exeter – and from the same trains three, 11, five and eight passengers got off. All trains started with 40 or more passengers.
These are minibus loadings. Campaigners for retaining these grossly underused stations are fighting the wrong cause.
They point out the problems of access to the stations by people living in Mid Devon. They should be fighting strenuously for a proper minibus service connecting with a smaller number of railheads, providing a bus service for Mid Devon. Similar railways such as the Cotswold Line have a complementary minibus service that links some stations with outlying villages.
Such a service in Mid Devon would allow the Barnstaple to Exeter Railway to cut the journey time to around 45 minutes.
Campaigners should consider the increasing use of the North Devon Link Road and Tiverton Parkway Station to avoid the time-wasting Barnstaple-Exeter-Tiverton Parkway journey.
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The line is already heavily subsidised – any loss of revenue to placate a small number of Mid Devonians could be disastrous.