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Exeter rail station wins revamp cash

By This is Devon  |  Posted: August 20, 2009

Digby and Sowton train station

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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.

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    Jackie Hillier, Exmouth  |  August 20 2009, 3:31PM

    Great news - but I do have two comments/requests to make re the proposed changes: The platform at Digby should not need lengthening to accept more carriages as it is already adequate for 4 or 5, which is an exceptionally rare sight at present. The 2 carriages which seems to be the norm at peak travel times at present are woefully inadequate, and I for one am sick of buying a ticket, and having to travel like a sardine back home after a long hard day at work! Secondly, while you are making these alterations, would it be possible to resite the footpath to the Rugby club, by bringing a spur off the Sowton side of the track (thereby ensuring that the fans do not have to go through a housing estate) but also allowing access to the Trade City, Apple Lane industrial estate? This would make this estate far more accessible for those using the train - and I would love you forever...!

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    Tom, Exeter  |  August 20 2009, 10:57AM

    Revamping the station is ok but its the awful 1960/1970's trains that need replacing with much newer and quieter trains.

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    Jon Cordery, Middlemoor, Exeter  |  August 20 2009, 8:42AM

    Great news for this area. What with new housing and the rugby stadium in this area. This area of Exeter has the largest growth. The only problem is the frequency and size of the trains past this city station. The Class 142/143 Trains need to be removed from this line for a better service to over 1 million passengers travel every year on this line. I personally travel on this train line every week. Many people from this area use this line to get into town. A return costs 2.10 off peak whilst a bus from this area can cost up to £3. Trains are much faster as well. Travelling times of 8 mins - 12mins compared to 30 mins on a bus.