Digby and Sowton train station
A REVAMP is on the way to improve conditions for the 275,000 passengers a year who use one of the city’s busiest unstaffed rail stations.
Exeter’s Digby and Sowton, on the Exeter to Exmouth line, is facing increasing pressure with new homes being built in and around the city.
Now rail bosses have announced a two-year scheme, starting next month, which will double shelter space for waiting passengers, give paths a makeover with better surfacing and lighting, and add a new footpath to serve the Exeter Chiefs’ rugby ground at Sandy Park.
The cycle network to stations will be improved and storage facilities added.
Exeter City Council is hoping to resite the footpath from the station to the park and ride bus terminal for the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital to make it safer.
Phil Slater, for Devon County Council, said the station was one of only 30 in the country to be selected as a ‘pilot’ to encourage greater use of rail travel.
He told a meeting called by the Avocet Line Rail Users’ Group (ALRUG) that fears about security were being addressed with better lighting and additional CCTV cameras.
It was hoped the station would gain a secure station certificate within weeks, showing that it meets national standards.
He said walkways suffering from flooding and slippery surfaces in winter would be improved.
Melanie Harvey, line manager for First Great Western, said a replacement bus service would operate for four weekends in November while an upgrade to the track was completed further down the line. Trains would still run to Digby.
Noel Harrison, vice-chairman of ALRUG, said passenger numbers on the line had doubled within the last decade while government decisions had resulted in a shortage of suitable trains to cope with the increase.
The Exeter to Exmouth line carries 1.5m passengers a year.
Digby and Sowton station already receives 275,000 passengers a year, and the area is due to receive more than 4,000 more houses in the next few years — the first already being built at Newcourt.
Longer trains will need expensive longer platforms down the line, and extra stops at new stations cannot be worked into present schedules without track improvements.
Mr Harrison said the best solution would be to double the track between Polsloe and Digby, with an extra passing loop at Lympstone.
This would allow a service every 15 minutes, and, he said, was achievable at reasonable cost.