Fear over future of direct trains link
VITAL direct trains between the English Riviera and London are under threat, a rail users group says.
All passengers heading for the resort will be forced to change at Newton Abbot under a new franchise, warn the Torbay Line Rail Users Group.
First Great Western says it has no current plans to curtail services.
But Roger Dixon from the Torbay group said: "There is a serious threat that these services will be stopped under the new franchise, which will run for 15 years."
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Dr Dixon said the franchise proposed by the Department for Transport has no requirement to provide direct trains to Torbay.
Currently there are three Torbay and Paddington trains on weekdays.
Dr Dixon said the original proposal for the new Great Western franchise, requested these three plus an additional service at about 1pm from Paddington returning from Torbay at about 5pm.
These trains need to run seven days a week throughout the year, he said.
After the 'fiasco' with the West Coast Main Line franchise, bidding for the latest Great Western franchise has been put on hold until 2015.
In the meantime First Group will continue under the existing franchise until October this year. A new, two-year franchise will be negotiated, probably with First Group, until 2015.
"The specification for the new Great Western franchise assumes travellers will be content to decamp at Newton Abbot station and use a half-hourly shuttle service to Torbay. These trains having no bookable seats, no first class carriages and no refreshment facilities.
"Many passengers will have luggage, mobility difficulties, small children or elderly companions.
"If they are forced to change trains there is every likelihood they will not come to Torbay. They will find an alternative, such as Bournemouth, which does have direct services.
"Torbay is the second largest conurbation south west of Bristol with a resident population of 135,000. It has well over a million overnight visitors a year – more than Bournemouth, Blackpool or Brighton.
Dr Dixon appealed for residents and the holiday industry to campaign against the cuts, adding: "It is important those depending on the hospitality sector and, indeed, all Torbay residents, make it clear to the Minister of State for Transport, Simon Burns at the House of Commons, Mayor Gordon Oliver, MPs Adrian Sanders and Sarah Wollaston that Torbay must have adequate direct train services to and from London guaranteed within the new Great Western franchise."
A spokesman for FGW said: "At this moment we have no plans to alter our services. We can't talk about the future because we have only been awarded a six-month extension to our franchise and are negotiating for a further two years. From a business point of view we can't reveal the details of those negotiations until something has been agreed. Talk of a reduction is premature."
Write to the Franchise Manager, Great Western Bid Manager, Department for Transport, Great Minster House, 33, Horseferry Rd, London SW1P 4DR.