The Department for Transport has agreed to the first significant redesign of First Great Western’s mainline timetable in Devon and Cornwall for over a decade, with earlier trains and extra capacity during the summer.

The changes will see an "improved service" for the South West, providing an earlier morning direct service from London to Plymouth and Cornwall, getting to key destinations beyond Totnes 40minutes earlier.

A spokesman said the proposals will deliver a "much improved service for the region, supporting the generation of economic growth through improved connectivity between major centres".

Key improvements include:

• The 0706 Paddington to Paignton service will now instead run to Plymouth and Penzance, arriving 40 minutes earlier at key stations from Totnes and beyond than the current first direct service from London. The 0730 Paddington to Penzance service will now instead run to Paignton.

• Additional capacity for summer travellers on the late morning (1039) service from Plymouth through Cornwall by using an eight carriage High Speed Train rather than a smaller local train.

• Faster mid-morning service between Paddington and Plymouth

• Improved connections between Paddington and Torbay

• Faster return service between Paignton and London.

First Great Western MD Mark Hopwood said: “We have been able to make important changes that have gone a long way to support the communities we serve, increasing the number of services in the south west by 143 per cent since 2007.

"The South West is a key region for First Great Western and one which we are proud to serve. We know the needs of the region are changing and we need to make sure our timetable reflects the requirements of passengers and communities.

"In particular, these changes we are planning reflect the long standing aspirations of customers across the South West. It is something we have wanted to do for some time and I am delighted that the Department for Transport and the responses to the local consultation have allowed us to take this forward.

“This has been a difficult year for rail travel in the south west and it is great to deliver some good news to follow the speedy recovery from the sea wall collapse. It also comes at a time when we are promoting travel to Devon and Cornwall through television and national media advertising.”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “It’s great news that passengers will be able to travel from London into Plymouth and Cornwall earlier and faster. These new services will help open the south west for business, giving a boost to the region’s economy.

“Strong transport links are the key to our long-term economic plan, which is why we are investing £38 billion over the next five years on maintaining and improving our railways. I am pleased to see train companies like First Great Western playing their part by giving passengers better services.”

Ben Rhodes, Chief Executive Devon and Cornwall Business Council said: "These timetable changes are great news. FGW have worked effectively with stakeholders from across their routes to ensure that, often simple, but highly effective changes are made to the timetable to improve serves for most users. Specifically for business travellers travelling into and out of Devon and Cornwall; the retention of direct London services to Torbay, and the addition of a direct service from Bath and Bristol, the earlier arrival in Plymouth and Penzance are all welcomed"

Chris Pomfret, chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) said: “Earlier trains into Penzance from London, a better spread of services throughout the day and improved connections to high speed services are all things the LEP has asked for so this announcement is very welcome. Connectivity from London is vital for business and leisure travellers alike and these changes will benefit not just Cornwall but the Isles of Scilly as well. Coupled with planned investment in the sleeper service and new signalling, this is great news for rail travel in our region.”

Subject to approval by Network Rail, the new timetable will operate from December this year.