Train data is telling

I recently spent six days enjoying a visit to my cousin in North Devon. During this time we travelled on the Tarka Line on a number of occasions to get from Barnstaple to Exeter St Davids and return.

Although not a Devonian, may I offer an outsider’s views on the running of the Tarka Line, as I have read a number of comments on improving the service by closing a number of stations and thus improving running times.

In one such article I noticed comments from a local transport passenger group that one of the stations that should be closed is Copplestone.

I have looked at the latest data on passenger numbers using the stations on the line for 2009-2010 and 2011-2012 as a reference point. My conclusions would be as follows:

1. Complete closure of Portsmouth Arms and Chapleton – usage at the former has fallen to less than 700 passengers per year and at the latter saw only 162 passengers in 2010-2011.

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2. Reduce the number of trains calling on request at Kings Nympton to, say, three per day.

3. Retain all trains on request at Copplestone – my observation was that the new housing built near to the station meant all of the trains I used stopped to pick up and set down passengers. Indeed, passenger figures for Copplestone have gone up almost fourfold in the last four years to 8,164 in 2010-2011. I would be certain that the 2011-2012 figures will show a further increase.

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A few other general observations: Well done to all those involved in the renovation of Barnstaple Station and its environs – a great improvement from when I last visited 15 years ago. But can something be done with the derelict platform opposite?

Praise for the conductors – very helpful, generally cheery and always polite.

If First Great Western do get the new franchise, please can we see proper trains on the line – not some sort of buses on wheels I experienced.

Also, they need to sort out availability of seating. For example in the 1043 Barnstaple-Exeter service a three-carriage train was running, so there were ample seats to choose from.

However, the 1657 from Exeter St Davids to Barnstaple consisted of a two-carriage train which was almost full when arriving at Exeter St Davids and had a large number of passengers standing all the way to Barnstaple.

David McCune

County Down

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