DEVON and Cornwall have the highest passenger growth figures for their local routes of all community rail services in the country, it has been revealed.
The figures were disclosed by Mike Greedy, who was representing First Great Western Trains, when he spoke to an audience of businessmen and women, including representatives of the Torbay Line User group, at the May meeting of the Torbay Business Forum.
The Torbay line is currently showing passenger number increases of over six per cent a year. By the end of this year there is likely to be a half-hourly passenger service between Paignton and Newton Abbot, part funded by a European grant and Devon County Council.
Plans are also currently being developed under the umbrella of the Devon Metro scheme for the proposed new station at Edginswell as well as station improvements at Paignton, Torquay and Torre.
Mike Greedy also revealed that FGW will shortly be unveiling a new marketing programme for the Pullman Restaurant Services available morning and evening on certain of their trains using produce sourced within the region, including fresh fish from Brixham.
Other plans currently under consideration in the longer term include a new express direct rail link between Slough and Heathrow Airport.
FGW is currently negotiating with the Transport Department for a two year extension to its existing franchise beyond October.
Mr Greedy, who is providing interim cover for his colleague Julian Crow who is shortly to retire, said he was not able to comment on specific future franchise issues. He recognised that there is a local demand for more direct trains from Paignton and Torquay to London as well as for an earlier morning service than that currently available: he suggested that such matters should be taken up with the Secretary of State whenever the consultation starts for the franchise which will run from 2015 onwards. This will probably be towards the latter end of 2014 but the process for the future franchise has yet to be announced by the Department for Transport.
Robert Newman, chairman of the Torbay Business Forum, said that rail issues were always a matter of strong public concern. It was very good news to hear about the proposed improvements to the service on the Torbay line.
The Forum would however continue to lobby for an improved direct service to London and for a new early morning start, since the present early morning train did not leave in time to allow people to reach London in time for morning meetings.