Keep Cross Country services for Plymouth argues council

Plymouth travellers deserve better rail services from Cross Country, Council leader Tudor Evans says.

Councillor Evans says thousands of people who travel into the city for work, education and leisure could be impacted by the train company’s proposals in its Passenger Rail Franchise Public Consultation.

Services from the South West should be maintained to at least their current level – but preferably more – if the franchise is to benefit the city’s commuters and travellers, he argues

Plymouth’s Cabinet is being asked to consider the Council’s formal response to the consultation which will shape the future of the Cross Country network over the next decade.

Council leader Tudor Evans said: “Cross Country services for Plymouth and Cornwall frequently end at Bristol or Exeter because of the weather – something which they could resolve with a simple modification, but which has just not happened.

“Now we’re being asked to comment on future services – even though we’ve been described as an extremity of the network. Nevertheless we are trying to offer positive direction and have set out a package of proposals which should be achievable and which will help the Department for Transport plan the future of the network.”

The report calls for:

  • Keeping the existing number of Cross Country services and the number places served with current service levels to Penzance and Paignton as a minimum
  • Trains that are reliable and resilient to wave topping over the sea wall at Dawlish
  • Faster journey times with better national connectivity
  • A service with sufficient capacity to meet forecast growth in passenger demand
  • Trains that provide better comfort, on-board facilities including continuous internet access and mobile connectivity

Other points include

  • Consider adding both Ivybridge and Saltash as stops on the Cross Country network to provide better connectivity
  • the next franchise should grow the Cross Country network, providing services to destinations passengers want to go to – journeys from the South West to the North West have increased between by 40 per cent since 1995/6 while those to the North East have decreased by 32 per cent but there is only one direct service from Plymouth to Manchester

The response reiterates the Peninsula Rail Task Force’s priorities set out in the 20 Year Plan submitted to the DfT in November 2016 for:

  • A railway that is resilient and reliable
  • With faster journey times with better national connectivity
  • And which has sufficient capacity and comfort for passengers

Achieving resilience and reliability remains its top priority for growing passenger numbers, which is at 128 per cent, over twice the national average.