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Major disruption on Cornwall's rail link to London

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Published by Emma Carton at 6:35am 21st January 2019. (Updated at 9:24am 21st January 2019)

By Local Democracy Reporter, Daniel Clark

No trains will call at Tiverton Parkway rail station for THREE weeks when essential maintenance work on a tunnel takes place.

Network Rail will carry out maintenance work at Whiteball Tunnel, near Tiverton Parkway, from three weeks in February and March.

Whiteball Tunnel, near Tiverton Parkway, will be totally closed during the period between February 18th and March 8th, while Network Rail carry out maintenance work.

During the period, no trains will call at Tiverton Parkway, and the disruption will be felt by passengers all across the south-west

Trains between London and the South West will continue to run, but via an alternative route and journey times will be extended by an hour.

Rail replacement buses will run between Taunton, Tiverton Parkway and Exeter St Davids and will be in operation for all services calling at Tiverton Parkway.

Further work at Marley Tunnel, near Totnes, will mean that a reduced rail service will only be able to operate between Plymouth and Exeter St Davids, but each line has its own tunnel, a limited train service through the remaining tunnel can be operated.

The disruption caused by the South-West upgrade project is:

  1. A direct service will run every two hours between London Paddington and Plymouth, using an alternative route. Journey times will be extended by 60 minutes and via travel via Axminster on the East Devon main line
  2. There are limited direct services to Cornwall so a change at Plymouth will be required on most journeys. Journey times will be extended by 60 minutes and via travel via Axminster on the East Devon main line
  3. A direct service will run every two hours between London Paddington and Taunton
  4. One train every two hours will run between London Paddington and Taunton. Rail replacement buses will then replace trains between Taunton and Tiverton Parkway
  5. Trains from Bristol and the North will terminate at Taunton. Buses replace trains between Taunton, Tiverton Parkway and Exeter St Davids. A reduced service will run between Exeter St Davids and Plymouth. A small number of evening trains will run from Exeter St Davids to Penzance, but other journeys to Cornwall will require a change at Plymouth
  6. There will be an hourly service between Exeter St Davids to Newton Abbot, Totnes and Plymouth, alternating between GWR and CrossCountry.
  7. Local stopping trains between Exeter and Paignton will continue to run, but there will be changes to the normal timetable.
  8. Train times for journeys between Exeter and Pinhoe, Honiton and Axminster will be amended.
  9. Buses will replace all trains towards both Taunton and Exeter St Davids from Tiverton Parkway
  10. A reduced service will run on trains to Totnes with all services departing from Platform 1.
  11. Some trains will run earlier than normal on the branch between Exeter and Exmouth
  12. A normal service will run between Exeter St Davids and Barnstaple
  13. A normal service will run on the Gunnislake branch
  14. An hourly shuttle train will run between Plymouth and Penzance on the main line into Cornwall, but departure times may be different that usual
  15. A normal service will run on the St Ives, Falmouth, Newquay, Looe and Gunnislake branch lines
  16. Journey times on replacement buses are 40 minutes between Exeter St Davids to Tiverton Parkway, 70 minutes on the non-stop service between Exeter St Davids to Taunton and 35 minutes between Tiverton Parkway to Taunton.
  17. Bikes and large items of luggage can't be carried on rail bus and coach services.
  18. Valid rail tickets will be accepted on some local buseshe number of short-stay car park spaces at Exeter St Davids and Tiverton Parkway will be reduced to allow for bus operations.
  19. Permit holders at Tiverton Parkway may use a new temporary car park at Taunton station for no additional charge.

At a meeting of the Devon and Exeter Rail Project Working Party on Friday afternoon, Lewis Ward, Assistant Regional Development Manager for Great Western Railway, told councillors that there was an extensive programme of engineering work that was due to take place during the rest of the year.

He said: "There is an unprecedented amount of work but it will be short term pain for long term gain".

Before the tunnel maintenance starts, track renewal work between Newton Abbot and Plymouth will close the railway on three Sundays: Sunday 20 and 27 January and on Sunday 17 February. All trains between Newton Abbot and Plymouth will be replaced by rail replacement buses.

On the Barnstaple branch line on February 2nd and 3rd, and on February 9th and 10th, track renewals near Crediton mean that rail replacement buses will replace all trains between Exeter St Davids and Barnstaple.

"We would like to thank passengers in advance for their patience, as Network Rail continues its Rail Upgrade Plan to maintain and modernise the railway in the South West.

"New Intercity Express Trains are already operating on the route, adding up to 24 per cent more seats per train, with more new trains on the way.

"This work will ensure we can take advantage of the full benefit of these trains with a more resilient network.

"With more new Intercity Express Trains coming to the region older diesel stock is being replaced.

"Electric trains now operating in London and the Thames Valley also mean more modern diesel trains, and converted former High Speed Trains, serving local suburban routes in Devon and Cornwall adding better trains and more carriages where they are needed most".

GWR Operations Director, Rob Mullen

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