Monday, April 7, 2014
There are fears that calls for new trains, ticket machines and extra Sunday services from Exmouth are falling on deaf ears.
With more than one million passengers a year, the Exmouth to Exeter Avocet Line is the busiest branchline in the South West.
But Tony Day, chairman of the Avocet Line Rail Users Group (ALRUG), says that while First Great Western (FGW) ‘continued’ to listen it felt ‘like a long time’ since they had seen evidence ‘that they are taking any notice of what we say’.
He added: “We appear to be making no headway on our three priority areas for the new franchise.
“ALRUG may have lost the battle for extra Sunday trains to run through to St David’s, not only for this summer, but… for the longer term.”
He said that they had ‘proven’ the demand through passenger counts and they ‘thought they had won the argument’.
“We are now told it is cheaper and easier to shuttle one unit up and down between Exmouth and Exeter Central,” he said.
“My personal fear is that a half-baked subsidised shuttle service will be little used and, in a year or two, will be withdrawn, thus not giving a service that connects with the main line a chance to prove its commercial viability.”
Mr Day said that ALRUG had had ‘helpful correspondence’ with FGW’s engineering chief Andy Mellors about their ancient trains, but replacements were two years away.
He also said there was ‘little prospect’ of any more trains to prevent overcrowding in the early evening peak services and their plea for more ticket machines at smaller stations, like Lympstone, had so far come to nothing.
“First Great Western is keeping present services running in the face of enormous adversity, but the new franchise is already six months old, so a quarter of the current two-year period has already elapsed.
“In this context, the growing sense of frustration felt by the ALRUG committee could be seen as unreasonable impatience.
“I would say it is our job to be impatient, when we believe we are asking for reasonable, deliverable, affordable enhancements that would not only improve services for Avocet Line passengers, but generate more income for First Great Western.”