Passenger and freight demand In addition to the main cities and towns served directly by the Reading to Penzance route and its branch feeders, there are large areas of the South West which are remote from a station, and long- distance trains call at smaller stations such as Castle Cary to address demand for railheading in South Somerset. Similarly the stations at Tiverton Parkway, Totnes and Bodmin Parkway cater for large swathes of north Devon, south Devon and north Cornwall respectively.
The emerging Department for Transport (DfT) Regional Planning Assessment (RPA) for the South West identifies the role of rail as supporting London’s role as a World City and the local economies of other key urban centres by enabling rail commuting linking employers to sources of skilled labour; supporting the growth and integration of the London and South East, and the South West economies through provision of rail services linking London to the key centres; supporting wider social connectivity in the South West by providing important regional links, and contributing to the provision of surface access to Heathrow Airport.
The main markets for rail are identified as medium and short-distance commuting into London, from the eastern end of the route, and to other main centres such as Exeter and Plymouth; inter-urban travel between main centres in the south west and London and the Midlands; intra-regional inter-urban travel; access to airports; leisure and tourism, and the social dimension of local branch lines.
Between 2000 and 2006 rail passenger demand has grown by up to 20 percent for journeys from Exeter and Taunton to London, and up to 40 percent to the Midlands. However, this is in contrast to the minimal growth for journeys to similar locations from Plymouth, and west thereof. Growth in local journeys to Exeter and Plymouth is fairly static.
There is very little through freight movement between the Home Counties and the far west of England, although the Reading to Westbury section of the route is heavily utilised by long and heavy freight trains conveying aggregates eastwards from the Mendips.
Freight traffic generated in Cornwall is predominantly china clay, mostly exported locally through the port of Fowey, but with some longer- distance traffic also. Cement traffic from Hope (Peak District) runs twice weekly to Moorswater on the Looe branch.
Current services First Great Western operates the broadly hourly London Paddington to Plymouth services, which come together with the hourly Midlands and north to Plymouth services (operated by Virgin Cross Country) at Cogload Junction (east of Taunton), to make traffic volumes greatest between there and Plymouth. Between Plymouth and Penzance passenger train services are mostly operated by First Great Western. Virgin Cross Country has a limited presence west of Plymouth, although this is stronger in the summer months. A number of London Waterloo to Exeter St. Davids (via Salisbury) services operated by South West Trains run westwards beyond Exeter, to Paignton and Plymouth.
At the eastern end of the route the broadly hourly commuter services provided by First Great Western are operated with 2 car or 3 car formations and a more intensive service is operated during morning and evening commuter peaks. The most intensively used Devon branch, to Exmouth, enjoys half-hourly frequencies whilst the other west of England branches have hourly or less frequent interval services.
English, Welsh and Scottish Railway and Freightliner Heavy Haul operate freight services throughout the route.
Based on the December 2006 timetable, the RPA also identifies that demand for seats on main line services to London during the morning peak exceeds provision only at the eastern end of the route from Newbury by approximately 5 percent.
Figure 1 shows the current level of service to London from principal stations.
Figure 1 Current train service level (trains per hour)
Main line services
Trains per hour
Plymouth – Paddington Exeter St Davids – Paddington Bedwyn – Paddington Newbury – Paddington Plymouth – Birmingham New St
1 peak/1 off peak (9 trains per day from Penzance) 1 peak/0 off peak 1 peak/1 off peak 2 peak/1 off peak 1 peak/1 off peak (3 trains per day from Penzance)
Network Rail Route Plans 2007
Route 12 Reading to Penzance