This weekend will see many new timetables introduced when summer schedules begin on Sunday. Train operators are urging their passengers to check before travelling, in case the times of their trains have been altered.
One of the many changes includes the doubling of service frequencies on the recently-reopened Dartmoor Line between Exeter and Okehampton, where scheduled passenger trains were restored last November. From Sunday trains will be running every hour, and rail minister Wendy Morton visited Okehampton yesterday to celebrate the improvements.
The reopening is part of the government’s promise to ‘Restore your railways’, and the Okehampton line is the first practical example of this in action. The line was upgraded for £10 million less than the £40.5 million budgeted, and Network Rail said the route has proved ‘hugely popular’, because passenger numbers have been more than double than predicted, reaching an average of over 2,500 a week during the first 20 weeks. The number of passengers at nearby Crediton, where the Dartmoor Line joins services on the Tarka Line from Barnstaple, is also 39 per cent higher than it was before the pandemic.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘The huge success of the Dartmoor Line shows that when you get the service right the public will respond. Put the customer first and you'll get the results.’
His colleague Wendy Morton, speaking at Okehampton, added: ‘I am so proud to be here today to see the amazing work completed on the Dartmoor line and the beginning of a new hourly service. After speaking with regular users, it’s clear how central it already is to the community, residents and businesses.’
The news is not so good for Transpennine Express passengers, who will be affected again by another conductors’ strike on Sunday. Their union the RMT is demanding better pay for rest day and Sunday working, but the negotiations appear to be deadlocked.
Meanwhile, looking further ahead, Network Rail said it does not expect many train services to be disrupted by engineering works during the Platinum Jubilee weekend at the start of June, although it is investing £55 million in maintenance over the four days. Unlike recent holidays, all the main London termini will be open as usual.
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said: ‘We are still carrying out hundreds of important projects to upgrade the railway, but the majority of these will have no impact on passenger or freight services. As ever I’d like to thank the countless railway staff who will be out delivering upgrades or who will be working hard to keep services running.’