Number of Exeter to Exmouth passengers travelling by community rail up 60% in a decade
MP Norman Baker has praised the success of the Exeter to Exmouth train line and the route's community rail status awarded last year.
The transport minister visited Exeter St David's station to meet staff and representatives of the Avocet Line Rail Users Group (ALRUG).
Passenger numbers on the line increased by almost 28% in December 2012 compared to the previous year and were up by more than 60% from 2001 to 2011.
The route's importance to the region was underlined last month when it was among a number of major services entirely closed by flooding.
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Mr Baker said: "I am pleased to see that the Avocet line has been a great success story since its community rail service designation in September and congratulate everyone who has been involved. Passenger numbers are well up compared with the same period in the previous year with people taking full advantage of the extra services, showing what can be achieved when communities become more closely involved with their railways to help create the services and stations passengers deserve."
Bernard Hughes, county councillor for Exmouth, Halsdon and Woodbury, said the Avocet line was "very important to the town of Exmouth and to the city of Exeter".
First Great Western claims the success was down to a "clear strategy" it developed with Devon County Council, the Devon and Cornwall Community Rail Partnership and ALRUG.
West of England regional manager Julian Crow said: "At First Great Western we're committed supporters of community rail and fully endorse the benefits that working closely with our local partners can bring. The designation of the Avocet line has enabled it to take advantage of the benefits that are available to all other thriving community rail branch lines."
Rail bosses have promised to look into the Westcountry's flood-hit lines after coming under pressure from Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
They made a pledge after Network Rail published a £5 billion investment plan that offered little hope of immediate improvement to vulnerable stretches of line.
Network Rail was ordered by the Department for Transport to review 40 threatened sites in the region that cost up to £20 million of emergency funding to repair.
ALRUG chairman Tony Day said there was a "really strong case" for the Government to heavily invest in South West rail services and member Chris Austin said the Exeter to Exmouth line was a "very valuable service".