Passengers on the Exmouth to Exeter rail line will have more say on how services are run.

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Rail minister Norman Baker has announced that the Avocet Line, the busiest branch line in the South West, will be given community rail line status.

It means that First Great Western will be able to work more closely with the Avocet Line Rail Users Group and the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership to better design services to meet local needs

The Community Rail Development Strategy looks at innovative ways of operating local branch lines, through direct community involvement through local authorities, community rail partnerships and other groups.

To date, 18 lines have been designated as Community Rail lines.

A line forum will be set up to involve councils, voluntary and business groups to carry forward things like station improvements, marketing, new ticketing arrangements or timetable improvements.

Avocet Line Rail Users Group chairman Tony Day said: “This opens up new possibilities for improving services and stations on the line. It enables us to work more closely in a formal partnership with the rail industry, local authorities and business and voluntary groups to share ideas and resources for the benefit of passengers. There is also additional funding available, which I am sure we will be able to use effectively on the Avocet Line.”

Community rail minister Norman Baker said: “I want to encourage communities to become more closely involved with their railways to help create the services and stations passengers deserve.

“That is why I am delighted to announce this latest community rail service designation.

“Today’s designation is a major step towards helping the Avocet Line Rail Users Group and the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership work closely with local groups to provide innovative and more cost effective rail services for their community.”

Mark Hopwood, MD of First Great Western said: “We very much welcome the designation of the Avocet Line which will enable it to take full advantage of the benefits that are available to all our other thriving Community Rail branch lines.”

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