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Cornwall B&B owner calls on First Great Western to pay for ad campaign

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 09, 2013

  • Sarah Horne of Roscrea B&B Bodmin

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A Cornish bed and breakfast owner is calling on First Great Western to fund a marketing campaign for the Westcountry as compensation for "closing down" the peninsula.

When a landslide as a result of severe flooding closed the rail line between Exeter and Tiverton for five days last month, train operator First Great Western advised passengers not to travel by rail to Devon and Cornwall.

Sarah Horne, who has run the Roscrea B&B, in Bodmin, for the last eight years, lost a booking over Christmas as a result. Bookings for January and beyond are down on what she would expect. She blames it on FGW's "don't travel" message.

"I have lost out and so have quite a few other places," she complained. "How many people were there who didn't come down because they'd had the frighteners put on them? It seemed like they closed Cornwall down."

Miss Horne is now calling on FGW to fund a marketing campaign to promote the Westcountry to restore its reputation in the minds of visitors.

"The First Great Western website was just saying 'don't go'. That message is going to stick in people's heads and people do think about booking a holiday at this time of year," she said.

It comes as the region's business and political leaders continue to lobby for infrastructure investment to ensure that rail routes remain open in event of extreme weather.

Malcolm Bell, head of Visit Cornwall, said he would be adding Miss Horne's concerns to evidence being collated by the authorities to maintain this lobbying drive.

He said he understood why FGW had advised people not to travel by rail – but he warned this could impact on tourism well into 2013.

"If consumers feel that transport links are unreliable it can make a difference about whether they decide to go. People can easily go to somewhere like Suffolk of the Cotswolds instead of Cornwall and the rest of the South West," he said.

But with no mention of upgrades to the flood-hit Cowley Bridge junction in Network Rail's Strategic Business Plan for 2014-19, which was released yesterday, Mr Bell acknowledged that such investment could be a long way off.

"We need to know that plans are in place. These things do take time but it's all about taking a step in the right direction. It may take time but if people know that things will be resolved they are willing to put up with them for a while," he added.

Tim Jones, chairman of the Devon and Somerset Local Enterprise Partnership, called on Network Rail to set out plans to protect the rail line from future extreme weather events. "We want to see a very clear plan for long-term resilience on the network. We have been seriously compromised on rail travel and we want to see long-term protection for Cowley Bridge," he said.

James Davis, a spokesman for FGW, said: "The closure of Cowley Bridge by Network Rail meant that we could not run train services into and out of the county and poor road conditions meant that we couldn't guarantee our customers would be able to complete their journeys by road. The right thing to do for our customers in these circumstances was to advise them not to travel unless absolutely necessary.

"We will continue to work with Devon and Cornwall tourism boards to promote the South West as a destination."

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  • RedruthRich  |  January 09 2013, 6:58PM

    FGW were only repeating the Met Office and Highway agency warnings. Pirate FM and Radio Cornwall were giving the same warning as well, so maybe all these parties can chip in to the advertising as well. This is purely targetting FGW, ignoring the numerous local media that gave out the same Dont travel advise, all of whom were just repearing the Met Office/ Highway Agency advise.

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  • nick113  |  January 09 2013, 5:08PM

    FGW's warnings may have been factually correct, but were less than helpful. For several days they were saying that you shouldn't travel to Devon by rail while the Waterloo to Exeter line (i.e. SouthWest Trains) was operating normally (more of less).

  • toffer99  |  January 09 2013, 1:59PM

    I suppose FGW rail were supposed to say,"Hey, our track bed has washed away and signalling junction boxes are under water, but why not set out for Mrs Idiot's B&B anyway. It'll give you umbrella a nice day out."

  • catweazel  |  January 09 2013, 1:48PM

    And exactly why would people have wanted to visit Cornwall at that time with half the county under water? FGW were being extremely responsible advising people not to travel by rail to Devon and Cornwall at that time; hundreds of passengers could have been stuck at Exeter and other stations for days and for all that FGW knew, the situation could have become much worse had the heavy rain continued. I believe that FGW did the very best that they could under extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances and don't forget that there was no Christmas for all those who had to work to make the line safe again. Its ridiculous to suggest that FGW could be held responsible for a cancelled B&B booking. Bookings are down for many B&B businesses all over the UK, not just in Cornwall, but this is down to the recession because people have less disposable income.

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