Not all rail services on the European mainland are as good as David Baker says (Journal, 27 June). But most are and many are even better.
People there expect, and get, very fast connections between large centres of population, including those which involve crossing national borders. They expect, and in many places get, trains to run at regular times, so that they do not have to be experts in interpreting timetables when they want to travel.
In more and more countries, they expect to be able to make reliable, quick and easy transfers between one train and another where needed.
In Switzerland, they expect swift and easy connections, not merely between trains and buses, but with lake steamer services too.
Mr Baker is right in implying that North Devon’s rail service in particular falls far short of this. It is so slow that people who use it daily to get to and from Exeter spend the equivalent of fourteen working weeks per year sitting — and frequently standing — on its trains.
We can’t get to London until nearly 11.30. Even then it takes nearly 4½ hours, including almost an hour’s wait at St Davids. Many links with other parts of the country are similarly tedious.
Fortunately, a possibility for something much better is just around the corner. Two things are involved. First, step by step, Network Rail is renewing the track between Exeter and Barnstaple. Trains will soon be able to run faster. If full advantage is taken of this and fewer intermediate stops are required, journey times to and from St Davids of just 50 minutes should become possible without further major expense.
Second, the area’s major towns all seek better links with London. Plymouth, in particular, wants a three-hour journey time. This would entail times of two hours or less between Exeter and London. Link the 50-minute journeys to and from North Devon to them and Barnstaple–London times of just three hours would be on the cards.
Imagine what Barnstaple–London in three hours would do for North Devon. No further need to drive to Tiverton Parkway, for a start. Think of what it would do for the local economy. It would be pleasing if our councillors and MPs would give their close attention to this possibility.
For North Devon Public Transport Users
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