Tarka Line passengers may be facing a standing-room only summer after the operator apologised for a shortage of trains.

Great Western Railway is looking to bring in newer trains later this year with a fifth more seating, but at the moment it is short of rolling stock.

Speaking at a Devon and Exeter Rail Project Working Party meeting on Friday, Lewis Ward, assistant regional development manager for GWR, said it was an embarrassing situation, but the operator wouldn’t be able to strengthen the service until later in the year.

It came after Councillor Margaret Squires, vice-chairman of the committee, said that she had recently been on the Tarka Line and had found the trains were standing room only and packed all the way.

She said: “It was so packed that you wouldn’t even transport cattle around like it, and it was so busy that the conductor couldn’t even walk through the train to collect any fares. We need extra coaches on this train.”

Mr Ward said it was an issue with the class of the trains, the class 153 diesels, and that GWR simply didn’t have enough of them as some stock had been committed elsewhere.

He added: “We won’t be in a position to strengthen the service until later in the year. From a business point for us, it is very poor as if we cannot go and collect the money for fares. From a passenger point of view, it is rock bottom, so this is a big apology from us.

“There have been changes around the GWR network and some of the things down here haven’t worked as they should. It is likely that on the trains it will be a standing-up kind of the summer, and that is embarrassing for us, but it should be a temporary position.”

Mr Ward also said that punctuality performance on the trains in the region had been ‘challenging’ and below what they expected.

He told the committee that performance on the Tarka Line, the punctuality performance was around 70 per cent, which was ‘not where it should be’ of around 85 per cent.

He did add that new trains coming later this year would have around 20 per cent more seating and save on journey times.

Later in 2018, 36 modern Intercity Express Trains, will begin running from London Paddington, via Reading, Wiltshire, Somerset, along coastal routes in Devon and Cornwall and as far south as Penzance.

Passengers can expect more seats, more frequent services, better on-board facilities and shorter journey times, saving as much as 14 minutes between London Paddington and Penzance.