Milestone is met in plan to bring twice-hourly rail service to Cornish mainline

Image: David Hackett.

Thursday 29th November 2018 08:55 GMT

Plans for a twice-hourly rail service between Penzance and Plymouth moved a step closer last week.

Network Rail announced the completion of its work on mainline rail signalling enhancements, which will ultimately increase the capacity of the network and allow more trains to run. 

Working with Cornwall Council, the project has seen the firm install 21 additional new state-of-the-art signals on the Cornish main line.

Upgrades have also been made to seven level crossings in the area, installing the latest technology to provide improved safety.

As well as improving the reliability of the railway infrastructure, with the continued delivery of new Intercity Express Trains and more modern stopping services, the improvements will allow GWR to increase the frequency of services.

The upgrade will enable GWR to provide a half-hourly service between Plymouth and Penzance, and faster journeys, with more seats between London Paddington and the South West.

To further encourage the wider use of public transport the current bus operations and timetables are also being reviewed and enhanced to support a wider integrated approach to transport, providing a viable alternative to the car.

Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for transport Geoff Brown said: “Good public transport connections are vital to growing our economy and connecting communities. This is why we are working with partners to provide a One Public Transport System for Cornwall - a fully integrated and sustainable public transport network which will link bus, rail, ferry and airport timetables.

“As a council we are committed to delivering this project to provide regular, convenient, reliable transport for residents and visitors.  Passenger numbers in the south west are growing faster than anywhere else in the UK. Working with partners to improve the public transport infrastructure is a priority and the completion of the mainline signalling project by Network Rail is a key element.

“Ultimately we want to deliver an integrated SMART ticketing system for bus, rail and ferry to make it as easy and convenient as possible for residents and visitors to use all forms of public transport.”

The £400m programme of improvements for rail services in Cornwall is the result of a partnership between Cornwall Council, the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, the Department for Transport, GWR and Network Rail.

GWR introduced the first of its fleet of high-speed trains in August and improvements including the enhanced sleeper service, new train care centre at Penzance and Wifi in Cornish railway stations are all already in place.

GWR operations manager Rob Mullen said: “These improvements will not only improve the reliability of the railway infrastructure but will enable us to deliver the full benefits of new Intercity Express Trains, and more modern stopping services; better connecting communities across the routes we serve.

“This will enable us to meet our shared aspiration for a half hourly service between Penzance and Plymouth; while also delivering more seats and quicker journeys between the South West and the capital.”

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