Network Rail today outlined a ten-year strategy based on forecast rail demands and local and economic population growth for the Great Western Route.
The transformation of the railway in Devon and Cornwall will be advanced with further investments in improving rail connectivity, said the proposal which is part of the Great Western Route Utilisation Strategy. It pledges to increase trains and more frequent services to build on the benefits from the capacity-boosting Intercity Express Programme (IEP).
To sustain the growth, it said there needs to be better connectivity into Exeter and Plymouth and consistent service pattern during summer peak period.
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.
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.
Network Rail route director Chris Rayner 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.”
Passenger Focus manager Mike Greedy added: “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.
Key recommendations that will require government or third party funding include:
- Improving service pattern between Paignton to Exmouth to half-hourly and Barnstaple to St James Park to hourly
- Continuing analysis of capacity constraints on the local and long-distance services into and out of Paignton
- Reviewing service provision for Newquay to explore requirement to improve capacity, with reference to Government’s plan to develop an eco-town near St Austell
- Exploring feasibility of a standard timetable pattern throughout the day between Bristol - Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance
- Reduce journey time on services between Bristol Temple Meads -Exeter by raising the linespeed between Bristol Temple Meads to Bridgwater to 125mph (200kmph)