SCHOOLCHILDREN and commuters are being left stranded due to train services on the Tamar Valley Line being frequently cancelled with little or no notice.

Increasingly frequent cancellations, which are said to be causing children to be marked absent from school and placing Bere Peninusla residents who work in the city at risk of losing their jobs, have been attributed to driver illnesses and shortages by Great Western Railway (GWR), whose services operate on the single-track line which runs between Gunnislake and Plymouth.

Emma Taynton-Young, a mother of two whose children are reliant on the train services to attend school in Plymouth said: ‘Parents drop their children at Bere Alston or Bere Ferrers station and all of a sudden the 7.46am train to Plymouth is cancelled or sometimes it never turns up. We now have to check every morning online to see if the services are running; it happened during the pandemic and it’s become worse since the start of the year. There’s never any replacement service either to cover the cost of the fare for our children who have weekly tickets and the refund process is long and complicated. It’s happening all the time.’

Another local parent, Fran Morgan, who is having to send her daughter Poppy home on a circuitous, time-consuming bus route via Tavistock every week to ensure she can attend extra-curricular activities, described the situation as ‘a perfect storm.’

Many affected residents and parents have spoken with Bere Ferrers ward borough councillor Angela Blackman who has contacted GWR on many occasions in a vehement bid to see normal services restored. Angela said: ‘Local residents who need to use this line to get into the city are not being told the trains are being cancelled until the last minute and there’s no alternative put on. It’s completely unacceptable. One resident I spoke with who owns a business in Plymouth can’t start operations until he arrives on site and cancellations make him very late.

‘Every time I’ve spoken with GWR’s CEO or head of publicity they always come back to me with generic responses about covid and sickness. We’re supported by councillors in Calstock and Plymouth in efforts to tackle this.’

Fellow Bere Ferrers ward borough councillor Peter Crozier said: ‘The problem is now worse than ever. If a service is advertised, there should be replacement services. The morning rail services from Bere Alston station are utilised a lot more than people realise.’

A spokesperson for GWR said: ‘We are very sorry for the inconvenience cancellations have caused. We are currently having to operate with higher than usual sickness levels and these cancellations have largely been due to short notice staff absence. During the pandemic we were unable to complete in-cab driver training which means we are also working with a smaller pool of spare drivers. We are working hard to reduce the training backlog and doing all we can to improve reliability on this line.’

‘Where we know that a train is not able to operate, we try to secure replacement road transport but unfortunately in some instances this has been difficult to source because it is already in use for school runs.’