Upgrade our train links
PUBLISHED: 10:41 20 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:41 10 June 2010
An item in the Journal, hidden away under News from the City , suggests that a hi-tech tram-like system is planned for Exeter .
An item in the Journal, hidden away under 'News from the City', suggests that a 'hi-tech tram-like system is planned for Exeter'.
Before those in power get carried away with this glossy new and expensive idea, which I believe includes a 'tram-train' connection from Cranbrook to the centre of Exeter, may I enter a plea for the more urgent problem of transport from Exmouth to Exeter?
We do have a perfectly good railway, which carries 1.4 million passengers a year, 700,000 of them from Exmouth. This is a figure which surpasses many, even in the industrial conurbations in the north, such as one route from Bradford to Leeds.
The line provides 30 trains a day, with through services to Paignton and Barnstaple, and is the quickest way of travelling between the centres of Exmouth and Exeter.
However, two new developments, at Digby and Monkerton, are already being built along the route. These will place 4,500 more homes near the railway - and also on the roads from Exmouth into Exeter. But even before the first traffic of this build has arrived, usage at Digby and Sowton alone has gone up by 20% last year alone to an amazing 270,000 passengers per year.
This shows our railway line is reaching capacity, and that immediate action is needed. It will take much local initiative and pressure to obtain the finance to keep it abreast with present needs, let alone the step change promised by eventual electrification.
Can we not persuade our local leaders that the Exmouth-Exeter corridor, where the needs are pressing and present, deserves a higher priority than the green fields of Cranbrook, where building is yet to start?
The sum of £70 million has been mentioned. This would more than cover the provision of a speedy rail service - much quicker than a 'tram-train' - every 15 minutes into the centre of Exeter, with enough capacity built into the system to build one or even two more stations to serve the many thousands from Newcourt and Pinhoe who would otherwise logjam the roads on their way to work - roads on which £35 million is already being spent in the city with at least the partial aim of deterring the car!
Tram-trains and guided buses have been tried elsewhere, but have proved very expensive and met with only mixed success.
In our case, a logical development of a tried and trusted system could bring a massive improvement in transport facilities at a reasonable price.
To see what can be done at reasonable cost, go to Cornwall and see what has been achieved on the Truro-Falmouth and St Ives-St Erth branches, where use has risen by up to 30% after new timetables came in last December - and count the cars the new services have kept off the roads! Are we too timid to ask for a similar upgrade in Devon?