Ahead of further debate on rail investment in Dorset, the Rail Peninsula Task Force has highlighted some of the significant rail investments to have been made into the South West region.
In a report prepared ahead of those debates by Devon County Council, more than £300m investment has been spent on improving the railway network in the region since the submission of a regional transport plan to the Department for Transport in 2016.
- Over £50m investment in improving resilience of the line north of Cowley and in Somerset Levels
- Over £120m and a further £30m committed to deliver a new sea wall and promenade in Dawlish, including cliff stabilisation and rock fall shelters at tunnel portals between Dawlish and Teignmouth.
- Over £40m to reopen the Dartmoor Line between Exeter, Crediton and Okehampton
- Over £50m investment in creating 21st century maintenance depot facilities at Exeter St David’s and Long Rock (Penzance), capable of servicing longer trains
- £30m Cornwall mainline re-signalling to increase capacity for better local services
- £14m refurbishment of the Sleeper Service
- New Inter-City Express Trains delivered with significantly increased seating capacity for passengers on an hourly speeded up timetable, and Improved rail services offering better connectivity, including:
- 2-hourly semi-fast trains between Paddington and Exeter
- 2 trains per hour even headway Plymouth-Penzance
- Extra XCT services between Bristol and Exeter
- Half hourly service Exmouth – Paignton
- New Stations Fund monies secured for Marsh Barton Station (Exeter) and Edginswell Station (Torbay)
Since 2020, the Peninsula Rail Task Force has been the strategic rail sub group of Peninsula Transport, the shadow sub-national transport body representing Cornwall, Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay.
The report also highlighted desires to increase the number of rail freight terminals in the region, alongside increasing the number of stops suitable for loading and unloading across Devon, Somerset and Cornwall, supporting regional goods connectivity, as well as reducing the number of lorries from the roads.
The report states: "Regarding freight, the South West Sub National Transport Bodies have jointly commissioned a freight strategy, which is nearing completion.
"The strategy includes recommendations that support mode shift of freight to rail, including establishing a plan for a network of rail freight intermodal terminals in the South West and ensuring the rail industry allocates sufficient freight train paths on the main line and diversionary routes.
"We will continue to develop these proposals and build this into the emerging rail strategy plans for the Peninsula."
The region will also seek to make significant progress with environmental strategies as well. Some of the regional schemes which have been able to support this have included the completion of the Great Western electrification programme, the development of the North of Dartmoor line, connecting Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock – opening new public transport options for commuters in the region – as well as working with local councils and stakeholders to meet and support climate emergency goals.