Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Passenger numbers on the Exmouth to Exeter rail line increased by almost 10 per cent last year carrying a record 1.4 million passengers despite being earmarked for closure 50 years ago.
The journey figures, prepared for Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership by train operator First Great Western, show an increase during 2012 of 9.7 per cent, well above the national average and good even for the South West, where rail travel is generally booming.
Chairman for the Avocet Line Rail Users Group (ALRUG) Tony Day said the figures showed how wrong Dr Richard Beeching, who was chairman of the newly formed British Railways Board, was in pencilling in the line for closure.
The Beeching Report, published 50 years ago next month, led to the closure of many railway lines, in Devon and elsewhere.
The Exmouth line was on the list to be closed, but a local campaign led to a reprieve.
Tony said: “These figures are excellent. They show clearly that our line is well used all throughout the year, not just in the height of summer.
“In fact, the busiest months were May and the period between mid October to mid December, when passenger numbers grew by more than 25 per cent in just a year.
“Even during the bad weather and Christmas period, numbers kept growing strongly.
“Overall the line is a third again better used than five years ago – which just goes to show how badly wrong Dr Beeching got it, when he said the line had no future.”
To celebrate, ALRUG is hosting a meeting at the Globe Hotel in Topsham , with a talk, Beeching – Lessons Fifty Years On, with well known railway writer Professor Paul Salveson as guest speaker.
Paul will be introduced by Chris Austin, ALRUG member and chair of the Avocet Line Forum, who has recently co-authored a book, Holding the Line - how Britain’s railways were saved.
Tony Day said: “As a rail users’ group it is important to see our line in the context of the wider network and its history.
“It may be 50 years since the Beeching Report led to the closure of many railway lines and stations, but there are still lessons to be learned today.”
Although this is a meeting for ALRUG members, it will be possible to join on the door for just £5.