Passengers in the South West to benefit from thousands of extra seats as new services introduced between Plymouth and Penzance

Passengers in Devon and Cornwall will notice something unusual on their commute this week as Network Rail and GWR have installed giant deck chairs at stations along the route to mark the introduction of new services this May, providing an extra 4,200 seats every weekday.

Last year Network Rail upgraded the signalling system in the region, enabling GWR to double the frequency of off peak services for key periods of the day. The additional services will be operated by new Intercity Express Trains and refurbished Castle Class trains, offering more seats and greater comfort.

Network Rail’s £30 million signalling upgrade which enabled the service increase has seen 21 additional signals added along the Cornish mainline as well as upgrades to seven level crossings to improve safety. This work has significantly increased the capacity and improved reliability of the railway network in Cornwall.

As part of the new timetable, which came into effect on 19 May, passengers will now benefit from many more half-hourly local stopping services between Plymouth and Penzance, providing thousands of extra seats every weekday.

Mark Langman, route managing director for Network Rail’s Western route said: “I am pleased that through our partnership with Cornwall Council, the Local Enterprise Partnership and GWR, we have been able to make significant improvements for passengers in the south west as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan. Passengers in Cornwall will not only benefit from these additional services, but also a more reliable railway.

“Cornwall Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership are one of our largest third-party funders and their joint funding has enabled this £30m scheme to provide a noticeable improvement for passengers, with more frequent services and extra seats.”

GWR managing director Mark Hopwood said: “I am delighted that we have been able to deliver these improvements and another significant step to provide more modern trains, and more frequent services on almost every part of our network.

“These new, routine half-hourly services will have a significant impact for those who travel in Devon and Cornwall and the communities we serve; and paving the way for mainline improvements between London and Devon and Cornwall to come later in the year.”

Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for transport Geoff Brown said: “The introduction of this new and improved rail timetable by GWR is a major milestone which has been enabled by the Council’s investment in Network Rail’s mainline signalling project.

We know that good public transport is important to our residents to connect communities, and to businesses, as they are vital to growing our economy.  Promoting and providing good reliable public transport is also important in tackling climate change and getting cars off the road.

That’s why improving public transport in Cornwall is a priority for this Council.  This latest development is an important part of the One Public Transport System for Cornwall, which will see the integration and alignment of transport services to benefit residents, commuters and visitors in Cornwall.”

Alongside the Council’s funding, the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) also invested £3.2 million in Network Rail’s signalling project from the Government’s Local Growth Fund.

LEP chief executive Glenn Caplin said: “These new services give better connectivity to Cornish businesses and improved access to employment and education for people across Cornwall. With more capacity in the public transport system we can boost productivity and grow the economy.”

Passengers are encouraged to try out the giant deckchairs at stations along the Cornish mainline to help celebrate the introduction of the new services and share any deck chair selfies online using the hashtag #GWRSummerSeats.