Letter to the North Devon Journal 15 November 2012

The confirmation of extensive track renewal to be done on the Barnstaple railway (Journal 25th October) will be welcomed, not least by those who have long suffered the bumpy ride on ancient rails. So too will be the prospect of faster journeys.

Tarka Rail Association Chairman John Burch’s claim that this is the only way to get people out of their cars, however, is inadequate. Yes, the railway is part of the essential future public transport network, but it is only part of it. That network should include buses as well as trains. We need buses that connect with trains and vice versa. It’s called integrated transport and works well where it is done. What we have now falls far short of it.

Those who travel frequently between Barnstaple and Exeter will be only too aware that the biggest impediment to speed and smooth travel is the far too frequent stops at lightly used stations. North Devon Public Transport Users has long advocated a fast limited stop service. We are pleased to note that the Tarka Rail Association now also does — yet it also wants an additional secondary stopping train service. This, we believe, would require an immense set-up cost and a huge and continuing taxpayer subsidy, far outweighing the very small numbers who would benefit from it.

With public funds becoming ever more constrained, surely it would be better to spend this money on local buses. For a fraction of what it costs to serve eight very lightly used train stations, a network of rail feeder buses could be set up, covering a much wider area than just the immediate catchment of the railway.

Surely that is the way to get people out of their cars and onto a public transport network. Also, public transport is not just about getting people out of cars — for many it’s about simply getting out. It should be about enabling people without cars to travel more easily to work, shops, colleges, hospitals and so on — in fact join in with society.

Finally, for those who question the impact of focusing the rail service on Barnstaple and no more than three intermediate stations, please visit our website, www.ndptu.org.uk. The facts suggest that both its usage and its financial viability would be greatly improved.

Patrick Adams (on behalf of NDPTU)

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