Multi-million pound boost to South West economy proves rail tourists do like to be beside the seaside

Three of the South West’s iconic seaside towns are leading a £2 billion boost to the UK economy through rail tourism, new research published by the Rail Delivery Group shows.

The research shows the influx of tourists by train into places such as Torbay, Newquay and St Ives help support over 100,000 jobs around the country and demonstrates how the partnership railway’s long-term plan is strengthening its contribution by securing a total of almost £85 billion extra economic benefits.

The research uses data from Visit England and the GB Tourism Survey to look at the country’s top tourist destinations. Three of the South West’s iconic seaside towns are amongst the top areas in the country to benefit from rail tourism:

  • Torbay - £10.8 million of economic benefit and 8% of jobs supported
  • Newquay - £9.7 million of economic benefit and 6% of jobs supported
  • St Ives – £5.9 million of economic benefit and 4% of jobs supported

Deputy Director of Communications at the Rail Delivery Group, Seb Gordon, said:

“Millions of people have travelled by rail over the summer to reach their holiday destination. Our research shows the £2 billion they help to generate supports the partnership railway’s long term plan to boost local communities in the South West and strengthen its contribution to the economy.”

From Drakes fish and chip shop in Torquay to Cornwall Pride, businesses around the South West rely on the regular influx of thousands of tourists by train.

More than 5,000 people are expected to head to Newquay this weekend for Cornwall Pride. In its 11th year, the event has become increasingly popular and is now a highlight of the county’s summer calendar. This one expected to be the biggest yet, with thousands expected to travel by train. GWR is supporting the event by laying on additional transport and helping to promote it across their network. As part of the event, Newquay station will be transformed into rainbow colours, with specially designed signage.

Matthew Kenworthy Gomes, Chairperson of Cornwall Pride, said:

“The impact that this support has to the LGBTQ+ community in Cornwall, to everyone in Newquay, Cornwall and all the tourists attending is truly incredible. The support GWR gives to ours and other such events like Boardmasters in Newquay is vital to its success. This ultimately impacts on everyone that works within the tourist industry in Newquay and Cornwall.”

Torbay Royal Regatta has been taking place for over 200 years and is one of the oldest such events in the country. Organised by the Royal Torbay Yacht Club, it is one of the highlights of the sailing calendar in Torquay. This year sees the VXOne Sportsboat class choosing Torquay for their National Championship and the world’s top Junior and Youth boat will be at the regatta for their summer championship. While the 100 plus yachts and dinghies come by sea or road, the regatta is a popular social occasion for locals and visitors, so thousands of people are expected to head to the area to watch the racing and see the grand fireworks finale on Monday evening.

Located on Torquay’s main high street, Drakes Fish and Chips has been in business since the early 1990s. The restaurant’s proximity to the local train station means the railway delivers a fresh supply of customers every day, and the restaurant regularly has queues out of the door. With the Torbay Royal Regatta taking place over the weekend, thousands are expected to head to the area. The restaurant has proved such a hit with tourists that the business has recently expanded into a 60 seater pub so now visitors can enjoy tea, a pint or a gin and tonic with their award winning cod and chips!

Manager of Drakes, Valerie Boatwright, said:

“Tourism is central to the success of small businesses in Torquay and a rail link from London or Swindon is vital to the long term survival of our and other seaside towns. Being located close to the Torquay Railway Station means that hungry holidaymakers jumping off the train are able to come into the shop and generate business which allows us to support businesses in the local community who supply us with everything we need to make great fish and chips.”

Simon Fishwick from Visit Devon, said:

“Rail tourism is critical to the success of the tourism industry within the county. Devon is relatively lucky with a mainline bisecting the county and several branch lines enabling tourists to access and visit the North, East, South and West of the County. The railway also provides a greener solution to travel in the region and takes pressure off the roads. The routes are also some of the most iconic rail journeys to be had in the UK passing through beautiful countryside with far ranging views. A rare treat and well worth the effort.”

Chief Executive of Visit Cornwall, Malcolm Bell, said:

“Cornwall’s network of branch lines, plus the mainline to Penzance, offer visitors easy access to some of the most beautiful destinations in the country. Travel to St Ives enjoying views of the bay and arrive in the centre of the town overlooking the beach, or head to Newquay without the worry of finding somewhere to park the car. Both Falmouth and Looe are also great places to visit by train for a day out experiencing Cornish hospitality.”

Richard Burningham, Manager of the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, a non-profit partnership between local authorities, the rail industry and the University of Plymouth, where it is based, and which works to promote local rural railways said:

“The ease of getting to Devon and Cornwall by train led to the two counties becoming the massively popular tourist destinations they are today and, as this very welcome research shows, the railway continues to play a huge role in bringing visitors to the region’s seaside towns and villages, to the year-round benefit of the local economy. The new trains now being introduced by GWR on the London route plus significant increases in local services in Devon and Cornwall coming in 2019 will see the railways’ contribution to the region grow further still and will also encourage even more people, local residents and visitors, to leave the car at home and take the train.”

Notes to editors

Read more about the research.

Breakdown of figures:

Destination Total economic benefit
from rail tourism
% of jobs supported
by rail tourism
Bath £7.6 million 4
Newquay £9.7 million 6
Skegness £2.2 million 2
St Ives £5.9 million 4
Torbay £10.8 million 8

These figures were compiled using:

  • Train journey data provided by Rail Delivery Group and GB Tourism Survey
  • Research by Visit England titled ‘Transport and Domestic Tourism’
  • Annual data about the turnover and employment of the tourism sector from the Office of National Statistics

  • 2018-08tourismStIves
  • 2018-08tourismSkegness
  • 2018-08tourismTorbay
  • 2018-08tourismNewquay
  • 2018-08tourismBath

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