SUBMISSION OF THE TORBAY LINE RAIL USERS GROUP
Select Committee for the South West Region on Transport
Executive Summary, Priorities and Recommendations
I Who we are
II Torbay (Supp.1)
List of Sections summarising submission
1. Summary response to your questions
2. The majority depend on public transport not cars (Supp.2)
3. Adverse consequences of poor public transport (later supp.)
4. The importance of rail transport
5. The need for through trains (Supp.3)
6. Poor rail connections at Newton Abbot (Supp.3)
7. More frequent or longer trains needed (Supp.3)
8. New stations needed on the Torbay line
9. A new station needed at the north end of the Sowton industrial estate
10. Aller Junction link needed between Torbay line and the main line to Penzance (Supp.4)
11. Teign Valley line should be protected
12. Poor quality of rail services
13. Better marketing of rail services needed
14. Weaknesses of local bus services in Torbay (Supp.5)
15. Develop ferry services across Tor Bay
Supplementary information is available from the Secretariat or on request. Bus and rail timetables will follow by post
Executive Summary, Priorities and Recommendations
E1. Our priorities are intended both to improve services for residents and visitors and to contribute effectively to the Government's target for the reduction of carbon emission.
E2. Vital and urgent and no infrastructure requirements or costs, improvement of rail services to Torbay:
1. More through trains
2. Retain South West Trains (SWT) services beyond Exeter
3. At least half-hourly services between Torbay and Newton Abbot
4. Improve quality of First Great Western (FWG) services
5. More buses at week-ends and in the evenings
6. Protect the track of the Teign Valley Railway (cost-free)
E3. Urgent for giving better access to rail services and reducing carbon emissions and some infrastructure costs:
1. New and re-opened stations at Kingskerswell, Goodrington and
2. At the north end of the Sowton industrial estate,
3. Regular commuter services to Kingswear
4. Develop ferry services
E4. Urgent for improving and safeguarding rail connections and requiring infrastructure expenditure:
1. Build the Aller junction connection,
2. Repair the Perridge Tunnel
E5. Longer term and requiring substantial infrastructure expenditure
1. Extend rail line to Brixham
I Who we are
The Torbay Line Rail Users Group is composed of members nearly all of whom have long residence in Torbay and two of whom travel frequently to London. Our group includes a local Councillor, former academics (science, social sciences and arts), businessmen, railwayman and others. Several of us do not have a car or a driving licence.
II.1 Torbay is a 'U'-shaped unitary authority wrapped round Tor Bay. It has a population of about 135,000 and rising, with an above average proportion aged over 60/65, many deprived areas and more than one third of the population employed in distribution, hotels and restaurants, chiefly in the tourist trade. It is a major centre for tourism, conferences and business fairs. It has more overnight visitors than Bournemouth, Brighton or Blackpool and about five million visitors a year.
II.2 The tourist attractions include the only urban Geopark, many natural, geological, wild life, historical attractions, including Grade 1 listed building, and literary associations, as well as many beaches and safe bathing.
1. Summary responses to your questions
1.1. Our greatest need and priority is to improve the rail services between Torbay and London, Plymouth, the Midlands and North, and Wales. Rail transport at present is wholly inadequate for the second largest conurbation west of Bristol.
1.2. The Department for Transport (DfT) exercises effective control over the two train companies, First Great Western (FGW) from Paddington and South West Trains (SWT) from Waterloo through the franchises. In this way it weakens the possibilities for the Government Office and other regional bodies to develop environmentally friendly transport policies in accordance with Government policy.
2. The Majority Depend on Public Transport Not Cars
2.1. Public transport is required by all those without their own individual car. This is a much larger number than that of those households without a car. Most children aged 0-10 depend on an older person to make even short journeys. Children aged 11-16 are not allowed either to drive or have a car. They depend on public transport or on an older person to 'chauffeur' them, although they could travel safely on their own. In the absence of adequate public transport, someone, usually a parent, has to drive them. The 'chauffeur's' own freedom is reduced. In one-car households, all except one person usually depend on public transport for much of their travelling.
2.2. Certain groups of disabled people cannot or are barred from driving a car (the DVLA has a long list). Many older people do not drive after dark, long distances or on unfamiliar roads, although they may hold a driving licence or own a car.
2.3. Most roads are unsafe for cyclists. Motor-cyclists have a very high rate of accidents.
2.4. The number of people dependent on public transport is high and often exceeds half the population.
2.5. In Torbay almost 27% of households have no car or van (ONS 2001). Forty nine per cent of people aged 11 or over have no car or live in households with only one car. We conclude from these data that well over half the population depends on public transport. (Supp.2)
2.6. Roads are of very limited use to those without exclusive use of a car. Building roads encourages the use of individual cars, causing more carbon emissions, noise, worsens air quality and the prospects for public transport. Furthermore, it causes serious planning problems. Main roads take up much more space than mainline railway lines.
3. Consequences of Poor Public Transport
3.1. Where public transport is poor or insufficient, those without their own individual car are restricted in their access to employment, to education, in visiting family and friends, leisure activities and entertainment. They are also restricted in their choice of where to live. They are disadvantaged in comparison with others.
3.2. This disadvantage operates more harshly against women than against men. Fewer women than men hold a full driving licence, (half as many women among those aged 70 and over), are the principal driver of the car, and more women than men live in households with only one car or households without a car. (DfT, National Travel Survey, 2007)
3.3. Furthermore, those in the lowest quintile of income are most likely to use public transport and least likely to have a car (Table 4.2). Poor public transport therefore discriminates against those who are poorest and in great need of being able to travel, especially for employment and education.
(Supp.2 for further details from the DfT Survey)
3.4. Poor public transport discriminates against women, and older women in particular, older people, disabled people and poor people. The Sex Discrimination Act and other equality legislation, and the right to enjoy private life under Art.8 of the European Convention of Human Rights may well apply. (It is hoped to add Supp.)
4. The Importance of Rail Services
4.1. Rail services between Torbay and Newton are of crucial importance. A car takes twice as long and the bus three to four times as long as the train to cover the distance. Bus services are not an adequate substitute.
4.2. Both through trains and good connections at Newton Abbot are essential for this major tourist and conference centre. Both are lacking. Steps need to be taken now to remedy this deficiency in order to ensure that the economy of Torbay , economically and therefore socially vulnerable, is supported. Furthermore, visitors coming to Britain for the Olympics just three years away in 2012 will be discouraged from coming as long as the rail services are as inadequate as they are now.
5. Through Trains
5.1. On current timetables, both FGW (17 May-6 September) and SWT (17 May -12 December) together provide a total of 15 through trains to Torbay and 13 from Torbay during the week. There were slightly fewer during last winter.
5.2. Terminating the SWT trains at Exeter would halve the number of through trains to and from Torbay on Mondays to Saturdays. On Sundays, FGW would run the one and only train in each direction. This is worse than totally unsatisfactory. (Supp. 3)
5.3. For those who do not wish to change trains, SWT trains are attractive: bookable seats the whole way, trolley service with refreshments. The connecting trains on FGW services are old, seats are not bookable, there is no 1st class and no trolley service.
5.4. SWT's earlier offer to re-dual the track between Salisbury and Exeter at its own expense in return for a 25-year franchise should be re-examined, as it would enable a faster service and a diversionary route for FGW services between Westbury and Exeter. Lord Adonis, Secretary of State for Transport, considers this a priority.
6. Rail Connections at Newton Abbot
6.1. Rail connections between Newton Abbot and Torbay are poor for London for Plymouth, the Midlands, North and Wales. Sometimes there is no connecting train for from 30 minutes up to an hour; some trains arrive one or two minutes before, or just after, an otherwise connecting train has departed. Sometimes there is a mere three minutes to cross the bridge from one platform to another, impossible for disabled people, those with heavy luggage and those with small children. (Supp.3 to follow)
7. Frequency of Trains
7.1. Trains between Torbay and Newton Abbot are erratic in their timing in both directions, sometimes several close together, sometimes with a gap of an hour or more. Erratic timings discourage would-be passengers who are unlikely always to have a timetable handy. Timings fixed at regular half-hour intervals, as on the Exmouth-Exeter line, have led to a substantial increase in the number of passengers.
7.2. On Sundays, there are no trains before 10.05/10.10a.m.. Trains from such a large resort should run earlier than that even on Sundays.
7.3. We need frequent trains, a regular half-hourly service is the basic minimum. (Supp.3 shows a way to achieve this taking into account existing through trains.)
8. Re-opening of Former Stations and Extensions to the Torbay Line
8.1. The former Kingskerswell station between Torre and Newton Abbot should be re-opened. This would not involve infrastructure costs, as the platforms are still there.
8.2. Rail services stop half way round the 'U', cutting off the southerly areas of Torbay especially Brixham (population some 20,000) which is wholly dependent on local buses. The line at Paignton should be extended to Goodrington to serve two leisure centres. FGW already has tracks at Goodrington, but a platform would have to be built.
8.3. Dartmouth Steam Railway might be able to run at least a peak-time service to Kingswear, a short ferry ride (3-5 minutes) to Dartmouth, a major tourist and yachting centre, and buses to Totnes.
9. A New Station at the North End of the Sowton Industrial Estate.
9.1. At the north end of the Sowton industrial estate, the Met Office, Great Moor House (an administrative building of Devon County Council), the Devon Record Office, EDF and other business undertakings are located. The Exeter-Exmouth rail line runs adjacent to this area.
9.2. The Met Office employs nearly 1,450 staff and has an average of 135 visitors every day.
The staff travel from at least 17 towns in the South West, at least 13 of which have stations. Visitors to the Met Office come from all over the country and abroad. Great Moor House, the Devon Record Office and other businesses employ several hundred staff and receive many visitors. Great Moor House is also used for training and conferences. Parking at Great Moor House is insufficient to meet the needs of staff, visitors and readers at the Record Office.
9.3. Three bus routes from the centre of Exeter take about half an hour from the stations, and are subject to congestion. The nearest stations are Digby & Sowton and Pinhoe. Digby and Sowton is nearly one mile from Great Moor House and over one mile to the Met Office. Pinhoe station on the Waterloo main line is about one mile from the Met Office and further from Great Moor House. Trains from Exeter stop at Pinhoe only every two hours. A train would take about 10 minutes to travel from the centre to the proposed station, one third the time taken by the bus.
9.4. This proposed new station could provide a speedy and efficient train service to the Met Office, Great Moor House and the other businesses, save much commuting time and take cars off the roads.
10. The Aller Link between theTorbay Line and the Mainline
10.1. A rail link of some 440 yards from just south of the Aller Junction to just west of Newton Abbot would create a direct line between Torbay and Plymouth for passengers and freight including Torbay's waste to the incinerator at Plymouth. It would avoid the necessity of changing trains at Newton Abbot and reduce travelling time from Torbay to Plymouth by bus from about two hours to 45 minutes by train. (Supp.4)
11. The Teign Valley Line
11.1. The Teign Valley line could serve as a diversionary route should the mainline from Exeter to Plymouth and Penzance be cut at Dawlish or of that section require extensive and long repairs. The British Rail Board wishes to block the Perridge Tunnel half way along the line with concrete. Blocking the Tunnel would prevent further use of this line. Estimates that have been obtained show it would be cheaper to repair the Tunnel than to block it with concrete.
11.2. We consider it essential that the whole of the line be protected and the blocking be stopped so that this alternative route could be re-instated.
(Further information is available if requested.)
12. The Quality of Rail Services
12.1. The increasing numbers of passengers and the restrictions on the number of carriages permitted by the DfT have led to the near total removal of tables, a reduction in their size and in leg-room and luggage-space for standard-class passengers on FGW trains to the Westcountry. These changes make travelling in standard class unpleasant. At busy times, passengers are often sitting or standing in the vestibules and sometimes in the carriages. Walking the length of the train becomes almost impossible. More trains and/or longer trains are needed.
12.2. Refreshments, sandwiches and other food run out too often. Apparently the buffet staff, who know which are usually the busy trains, are not able to order supplies, as ordering has been outsourced to another company.
12.3. FGW is cutting its very popular restaurant services. This includes the very well used breakfast on the up service and the corresponding lunch on the down service. FGW is also proposing to cut lunch on the up service and send the staff up idle to provide dinners on two down services. This lunch service is fully used and passengers wanting it have sometimes had to be turned away. FGW discontinued the very well used dinner on the up service because apparently they had difficulty in finding staff in London. Tourists demand good food on trains.
12.4. The useful saver first has been increased much more than the standard saver ticket. For those with senior cards, this increased from twice to three times the cost of the standard saver ticket. As a result some passengers refused to pay this exorbitant increase leading to loss of revenue and increased overcrowding. Many passengers cannot be sure which train they will take in advance and so are unable to try to obtain discounted fares.
13. Rail services should be better marketed
14. Local Buses in Torbay
14.1. Several services do not run on Sundays These are for the most part services to villages, for example Marldon, Stoke Gabriel, Occombe Farm, Buckfastleigh, Ashburton. This is also the case with some residential districts in Brixham, Preston/Occombe, the Warberries, Lincombe Hill, Lutyens Drive in Paignton.
14.2. Several services do not run in the evenings. This includes all the services that do not run on Sundays. Several services run only every half hour in the evenings although they run more frequently during the day. When daytime half-hourly services became more frequent several years ago, the numbers of passengers using the buses increased very substantially. Single-deckers have been replaced by double-deckers as a result of the increased frequency.
14.3. Many services run only on school or college days.
14.4. The X46 from Paignton to Exeter takes one and a quarter hours and does not pass any of the railway stations. It runs only once per hour from 9.10 to 16.15 Mondays to Fridays with no service at 13.10 or 15.10. This service should be run regularly hourly and run later.
14.5. The Council, Stagecoach and First Bus should explore ways of increasing weekend and evening services and infrequent services. Bus services should be better marketed.
(Supp.4 to follow)
15.1. There are ferry services for tourists during the summer months chiefly between Torquay and Brixham. The ferry takes half an hour to cover the distance. The bus takes at least three quarters of an hour. Serious consideration should be given to developing the ferry service as a normal part of public transport throughout the day and throughout the year.
Margherita Rendel, Committee Member, London Link 12 July 2009
John Hartley, Chairman
Roger Dixon, Committee Member
Peter Skins, Committee Member