Make use of this chance
IT is turning out to be a wretched winter for users of the Barnstaple-Exeter railway line. Six weeks of interruptions to the service already. More to come in March. It's only too reminiscent of 1999/2000, when floods closed the northern end of the line for months on end.
Network Rail's work to put matters right, much of it over Christmas, has been heroic. It should be applauded, as should First Great Western's efforts to provide alternative means of transport. So, too, should the support given to passengers by FGW's staff, not least at Barnstaple itself.
This time, however, it is not just flooding. It is also that Network Rail has the mammoth task of replacing lengthy sections of worn out track with new. It is hardly surprising that the terrible weather has put back completion of this work substantially.
When the trains are running properly again, it will be easy to breathe a sigh of relief and let things carry on as before. This would be unfortunate. New track will make higher speeds over much of the line possible. We should ask a vital question: what is to be done with this bounty that will benefit North Devon?
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North Devon Public Transport Users' answer to this is clear: Do not fritter the gains away on small reductions in journey time.
Instead, seize the opportunity to establish the line as the genuinely rapid link between Barnstaple, Exeter and the main railway network which North Devon's large population and tens of thousands of visitors desperately need.
In so doing, drop the twee Tarka Line title, which conjures up little more than leisurely summer outings.
Keep in mind that, as things are now, people who travel daily between Barnstaple and Exeter spend the equivalent of 14 working weeks each year on its trains.
What could replace it? What about Barnstaple-Exeter line?
(for North Devon Public Transport Users).