Letter to the North Devon Gazette 21 November 2012

A ‘major £9.3m track revamp’ for the Barnstaple line, says the Gazette (14 November). Good. But let’s cut the spin. The old track is worn out. If it isn’t replaced, the trains will stop running.

The real question is simple. What do we want to do with the higher speeds the new track will make possible? Carry on running the trains as if this were a rural branch line? Or give north Devon the kind of express service its large population (100,000 plus — and a lot more in summer) requires?

Today, people who commute daily between Barnstaple and Exeter by rail spend the equivalent of at least 14 working weeks each year just sitting — and too often standing — on the train. Saving just a few minutes of their time each day will not be enough.

Substantial reductions in their travelling time are essential. For this, we need not just faster trains, but also fewer stops. The huge savings coming from this should be used to enhance rural Devon’s inadequate bus services. Better still, these buses should be linked where relevant to the trains. Together they could form an integrated public transport network.

John Gulliver (on behalf of NDPTU)

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