Steve Darling: Train replacements are great news for our local economy

Huddersfield Train Station

Pacer trains felt much more like Victorian cattle wagons - Credit: HS2/Bob Martin

The coastal journey from Paignton to Exeter is an inspirational part of our rail network and a significant element in what makes South Devon special.
Its highlights for me are travelling up the Teign and Exe estuaries, constantly changing due to the tides. 
The tunnels and coves between Teignmouth and Dawlish further enhance the trip. 
Some years ago I discovered Horse Cove along this section. It still has a flight of steps in the cliff that must once have been part of a Victorian footway.
Although these steps can still be used, something which needs changing will be gone from December 12. The Pacer trains on the Paignton to Exeter line are to be scrapped. 
This is great news for our local economy as their replacements are much better to ride on for both business and leisure travellers, in marked contrast to the Pacer trains which felt much more like Victorian cattle wagons.
However, the replacement trains are not brand new rolling stock, but hand me downs that almost certainly started their life in the South East  of England. 
Our lines are due to receive class 150s, 165s and 166s. All three classes have been updated, although they will be having a further update soon. 
They have accessible toilet facilities, wi-fi and in-seat power outlets. 
This is a good first step towards the quality of stock we should have in South Devon but can’t be seen as job done.
We need more improvements in the years ahead to ensure a much better offer to the travelling public. 
There appears to be a move towards increased domestic leisure travel following the pandemic and across Devon and Cornwall this could be really important for our local economies.
Christmas will be different this year for many of us as we continue to battle Covid-19. 
Throughout the virus emergency lots of good work has been carried out to help the most vulnerable in our communities and as we make the hard yards to the spring we need to continue such efforts. 
With Christmas approaching, more of us are likely to head out to support the local businesses we have been working with Devon and Cornwall Police to help open safely. 
Both the police and our environmental health officers are visiting premises across Torbay to make sure that business owners are clear on the current regulations and how to follow them, and the potential consequences if their venue fails to meet them.
The best way to keep Torbay safe is by sticking to the current tier 2 restrictions. 
We want to protect customers and employees so we can all enjoy some festive fun safely. 
Last Thursday, we in Torbay had the fifth lowest levels of infections in the country but we cannot be complacent as our fragile health service in Devon usually struggles in the winter and a further spike of infections could cause the local infrastructure to buckle.
Please be aware that there will be some changes to council services and opening hours between Christmas and New Year. You can find details of these on the Torbay Council Christmas webpages www.torbay.gov.uk/christmas
This includes information on bus services, public toilet opening times, Christmas parking offers and waste and recycling collections as well as tips on recycling as much as possible to help protect our planet. 
Remember, wrapping paper, cardboard boxes and excess festive food can all be recycled. 
If you have a real Christmas tree there will be shredding facilities at venues across Torbay on Sunday, January 3, and Sunday, January 10.
If you book first, you can take your excess cardboard recycling along with your Christmas tree to the recycling centre in Paignton.
Look out for our daily recycling advent messages on social media, which are offering top tips and information all this month.