The Avocet Line is a very important resource for the Exeter – Exmouth corridor, providing high quality and reliable travel in this busy and developing area.
Looking to the future it’s clear that the line will become yet more significant as it crosses the part of Exeter where major housing and business development is already occurring and where more is planned. So new stations and more capacity on trains will be needed in the next 10 years.
ALRUGs second manifesto was launched at the AGM in October 2015 and sets out our vision for the next five years. We will use this as the basis of our on-going work with the industry and other relevant authorities.
One of ALRUGs early campaigns was to lobby for earlier trains on a Sunday throughout the year. When ALRUG was formed, the first train from Exmouth on a Sunday in the winter did not leave until after 11 a.m! As a result of our work, the first train from Exmouth every Sunday is now 09.10.
Following on from this success ALRUG is now campaigning for a more frequent Sunday service. We believe there is sufficient business to sustain a half-hourly service during the day.
One of the early benefits of Community Rail designation was to obtain funding for a half hourly Sunday service to be piloted for 6 weeks. The additional trains ran every Sunday from 18th November 2012 until 23rd December. ALRUG organised passenger counts for the Sunday before the pilot and on some of the Sundays when the extra trains are running. Despite the bad weather and the problems with flooding on the main line, the pilot was a big success and we saw a significant increase in passenger numbers.
Further pilots have run in the summer months and in the run-up to Christmas since then. We continue to press for additional Sunday trains between Exmouth and Exeter St David’s throughout the year.
The Avocet Line also forms part of a vision for a ‘Devon Metro’ service linking Exeter with Axminster, Exmouth, Paignton and Barnstaple. Representatives of ALRUG have attended a number of meetings with Devon County Council and other interested parties. Further information can be found in the ALRUG summary of Devon Metro, and in the Devon Metro Appraisal report produced by Devon County Council.
Community Rail Status
There was a discussion about the possibility of seeking community rail status for the line at the 2011 AGM. The unanimous view of the meeting was that the ALRUG committee should explore this further, and an application for community rail status was subsequently made to the Department for Transport.
On 28th September 2012 Rail Minister Norman Baker announced that the Avocet Line had received community rail designation. This was confirmed when the Minister visited Exeter on 8 January 2013. The early benefits of community rail status included funding for a pilot of additional Sunday trains, a reprint of the popular birds leaflet, and production of a series of walks leaflets.
In autumn 2015 the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership made available the services of one of their staff – Celia Minougham – to take forward projects to promote and market the Avocet Line. Celia has set up a Twitter account, which is spreading the word about the Avocet Line, and taken forward a number of schemes such as a winter dining promotion and a re-launch of the Avocet Ambles 2 leaflet. We were delighted to be told in January 2016 that Celia will continue to work with us until at least the end of September 2016.
Please visit our Community Rail page for further information.