Calls to lobby for better rail services

Honiton mayor Councillor Vernon Whitlock meets with MP Neil Parish and representatives from South West Trains to discuss increasing the frequency of train services.

COMMUTERS are being urged to lobby for extra morning train services to Exeter.

The call is being made by Honiton’s mayor, Councillor Vernon Whitlock, who has revealed there is currently no funding for services from Honiton to Exeter between 7.50am and 9.04am.

Councillor Whitlock and the chairman of Honiton and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Colin Wright, met with officials from South West Trains in Westminster last week.

The meeting was organised by Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish.

The aim was to look into the possibility of increasing the frequency of train services on the Exeter-Waterloo line, particularly between Axminster, Honiton and Exeter.

Councillor Whitlock said: “There is a possibility of additional trains in the next few years and a half hourly service in the much longer term, but we will need to lobby now to get this on the agenda.”

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There is currently a gap in key commuting services from Honiton to Exeter, between 7.50am and 9.04am, and South West Trains says there is scope to run an additional service between these times.

However, there is currently no funding to provide the service, but the franchises for Great Western and South West rail services are up for renewal in the next few years - so there could be an opportunity to include these additional services.

Councillor Whitlock will be asking Honiton Town Council to join other councils in lobbying the Department of Transport to get extra trains included in the new franchise.

Mr Wright will also be calling on other chambers in East Devon to support the proposals. “Honiton is a key shopping destination in East Devon and the opening of Cranbrook station will mean that additional shoppers will be 20 minutes from the High Street,” he said.

The town council has committed its support to Devon County Council’s ‘Devon Metro’ rail plan, which aims to see additional trains between Axminster and Paignton for a half hourly service.

This will require further doubling of the track between Honiton and Pinhoe, at an estimated cost of �60 million.

Councillor Whitlock added: “There has been a lot of work done on this by other local councils and organisations, but we need to ensure that everyone joins together to lobby effectively.

“Neil Parish’s full support in this gives us a voice in Government.”

He also sought assurances from South West Trains regarding the retention of services at Feniton and Whimple following the opening of Cranbrook station in 2012.

South West Trains said there will be no change to services.