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Railwatch 073 - October 1997

South West

By Gerard Duddridge

Bright future The Okehampton Times welcomed trains at its local station with the headlines: They're back! - Brighter future for borough on line as passenger train link is restored. The headline followed the first Sunday special trains between Exeter and Okehampton. With reports of the spin-off being felt by traders in the town and a full page spread of pictures on the inside pages, it is obvious that the economic benefits of even the limited rail service restoration is being recognised. It was reported that 57 people travelled on the first train into Okehampton and 43 on the return working, the first train from the town. Each other first day train brought in over 80 passengers whilst all reports received by RDS suggest that the trains have been well used on subsequent Sundays. My own observations suggest that each train has been carrying about 55 passengers. Sunday 21 September is advertised as the last day of operation for 1997.

Cornish Branch lines The train service on the St Ives and Newquay branches has seen a general improvement in reliability, though there have been some bus replacements in cases of rolling stock failure and staff shortages. Summer Saturdays continue to see the Newquay branch busy with through InterCity 125 workings, often carrying passenger loads that would swamp the normal single unit sprinter by a factor of four. St Keyne and Sandplace on the Looe branch and Penryn and Perranwell on the Falmouth branch now have new waiting shelters. These have been built of red brick and are complete with a cream awning in traditional railway style. However, some things never change for the better and the St Ives branch cheap day return fares have been withdrawn over July and August for the third year in succession. Standard day returns are up to 150% dearer than the cheap day fares on the branch, although there is now a special cheap fare to Penzance for residents with a Cornish Railcard.

The RDS has been concerned about the lack of connectional information in train operator's timetables and has therefore produced guides to train services for Newquay and St Ives. The leaflets give times of trains to or from Plymouth, Exeter, Bristol, London, South Wales, the Midlands, the North and Scotland, where only one change of train on to the branch line service is required. Anyone requiring a copy should send a SAE to RDS South West, 149, Polwithen Drive, Carbis Bay, St Ives, Cornwall, TR26 2SW.

Bus Rail Links On 1 June, Great Western Trains introduced a number of "add-on" fares for bus connections in Cornwall and Devon. Many of these are on routes suggested by RDS (1995) in the paper, Developing Cornish Bus Rail Links. Included are places such as Helston, Fowey, Bude and Tiverton from railheads at Redruth, Par, Exeter and Tiverton Parkway. A timetable leaflet showing the best bus/rail connections has been produced.

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