Connecting Devon & Cornwall - strategy launched for consultion

The transformation of the railway in Devon and Cornwall will be advanced with further investments in improving rail connectivity, a draft proposal by the rail industry unveils today.

The proposal, which is part of the Great Western Route Utilisation Strategy, outlines a plan to bring extra trains and more frequent services to build on the benefits from the capacity-boosting Intercity Express Programme (IEP).

IEP will cater to the growing rail demand in the area, bringing extra seats to passengers. However, to sustain this growth and continue to generate rail market share, there needs to be better connectivity into Exeter and Plymouth and consistent service pattern during summer peak period.

Published by Network Rail, the ten-year strategy is evidence-based and considers forecast rail demands and local economic and population growth.

Based on forecast analysis, the Great Western is set to grow by 31% with nearly 100m passengers by 2019, with Bristol to experience the biggest jump in number.

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Rail travel into Plymouth and Exeter has boomed in the last decade with rail journeys increased by 50% and 30% respectively at the two key interchanges. Today, both cities are receiving approximately 2m passengers.

In addition, Plymouth and Exeter are forecasted in the draft Regional Spatial Strategy to be among the biggest growth cities/towns – following behind Bristol and Swindon - in the South West by 2026.

Chris Rayner, route director, Network Rail, said: “The Great Western is seeing record-breaking rail performance and sustained investments that is radically changing passengers’ experience. This emerging strategy sets the building block for more improvements in Devon and Cornwall for the next decade and beyond, when opportunities arise for an overhaul of the signalling system, electrification of the line and even more longer trains.”

“It is essential that we have a robust strategy in place to build a bigger and better railway and the support we receive as part of the consultation process will play an important part in shaping the future of rail services for this region.”

Mike Greedy, Passenger Focus manager, said: “This is a very important process which gives passengers the opportunity to highlight any realistic aspirations for the future services in their area and we encourage passengers to take part in Network Rail’s consultation.”

The emerging strategy focuses on connectivity issues and if funding is available, some of these options could be delivered from as early as 2014 onwards.

The majority of the options have demonstrated a positive business case, while some of them will require further evaluation during the consultation period.

Recommended options that require funding from either government or third parties, or further review include:

1. Improve service pattern between Paignton to Exmouth to half-hourly and Barnstaple to St. James Park to hourly.

2. Continue analysis of capacity constraints on the local and long-distance services into and out of Paignton.

3. Review service provision for Newquay to explore requirement to improve capacity, with reference to Government’s plan to develop an eco-town near St.Austell.

4. Further review to explore feasibility of a standard timetable pattern throughout the day between Bristol – Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance.

5. Reduce journey time on services between Bristol Temple Meads -Exeter by raising the linespeed between Bristol Temple Meads to Bridgwater to 125mph.

Key committed enhancement schemes with secured funding from government or third parties:

1. Intercity Express Programme to provide a new generation of trains to replace long-distance high speed trains on the Great Western, boosting capacity. Expected to be delivered from 2016 onwards.

2. Modernise signalling on the Great Western with the new in-cab European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS) to enhance operation and support capacity improvements. This will bring opportunities to improve infrastructure capability especially between Newton Abbott and Plymouth which, together with IEP, could significantly increase capacity and reduce journey times on key interurban routes. Expected to be from 2016 onwards.

3. Reading re-modelling scheme to cut delays on long-distance high speed trains travelling between London and Devon and Cornwall. Work starting in 2010.

4. An additional passing loop at Axminster to facilitate an hourly service between Exeter St Davids and London Waterloo. Due to be completed by December 2009.

5. Development of a new station at Cranbrook

6. National Station Improvement Programme to provide better service environment at select key stations, including Exeter St. Davids, Truro, St. Austell and Penzance.

Consultation of the draft Great Western Route Utilisation Strategy ends on 27 November 2009 with the final document published in early 2010. This will be put forward to inform the Department for Transport and to help shape its future high-level strategy for the industry’s next funding period from 2014 to 2019.