Several correspondents have recently mentioned the poor rail service to Devon and Cornwall, citing slow journeys and irregular timetables. Services to Torbay, Plymouth and Cornwall do indeed merit improvements — especially now that the last remaining air service from Cornwall to a London airport is under theat. But, northern Devon — the area around Barnstaple — should also be included. Here, a population of 140,000 is served by a branch line with the 39 mile journey to the interchange hub at Exeter St Davids taking over an hour. Onward journeys to London (or anywhere else) depend on irregular connections. Four hours Barnstaple–London is the norm.
Surely what the South West region needs is a “taktfahrplan” type service based on Exeter St Davids, with the service pattern built round hourly interval departures, offering regular and convenient connections off local services. Northern Devon would greatly benefit from a regular 2 hour Exeter–Paddington service, which, as your correspondents point out, could be achieved with a 2-tier service, splitting the long distance function from the service to intermediates.
Our own Barnstaple–Exeter line — marketed as the “Tarka Line” (which gives the perception of something quaint) — also needs a faster service with far fewer intemediate stops. Combining the two rationalisations could give us a 3 hour service to London. Given that northern Devon has the lowest average wage in the UK with a sizeable and growing population, it needs to be included in the wider case for the South West.
on behalf of North Devon Public Transport Users
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