The Anonymous Widower

Beeching Reversal – Light Railway Extension To The Barnstaple Branch (Chivenor Braunton) “TawLink”

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

This is an unusual project for two reasons.

  • It is based on light railway or tram technology.
  • The case for the extension is fully set out in the Taw Link web site.

None of the other projects, that I have documented have such a comprehensive statement of their case for acceptance.

The Introduction

This is taken from the home page of their web site.

Combe Rail CIO is proposing a modern, light railway between Barnstaple and Braunton. The North Devon Local Plan already urges the protection of former railway routes, to allow for future re-instatement. This former railway route is 98% intact, with sufficient width to accommodate a new single-track railway line alongside the Tarka Trail and South West Coast Path.

It’s now accepted that new and re-opened railways unlock economic growth. The success of the Borders Railway in Scotland is a spectacular example of this. The challenge of North Devon’s ever-growing population demands similar, forward-looking infrastructure planning.

Some of the other projects, that I have documented, could do with such a clear Statement of Intent.

The Route

This graphic from the Route page on web site shows the route.

And this Google Map shows the area.


  1. Braunton is in the North-West corner of the map.
  2. Barstaple is in the South-East corner of the map.
  3. The River Taw runs East-West across the map.
  4. The runways of the former RAF Chivenor, which is now a Royal Marine Base, can be found.

If you enlarge the map by clicking on it, many of the stations on the TawLink can be picked out.

This paragraph from the Route page describes the route.

Starting from Caen Street in Braunton, it will run tramway-style along Station Road, and then use the old railway formation all the way to the Civic Centre car park in Barnstaple. It will then street-run past the front of the former Town Station and along Castle Street to The Strand in the heart of Barnstaple. There are two options for crossing the river Taw – either to street-run along Long Bridge, or to share the proposed reinstated (former railway) bridge. The line will then street-run along Stickelpath Terrace to re-connect to the National Rail Network at Barnstaple (Mainline.) Intermediate stations will be provided at Velator, Wrafton (for Perrigo),  Chivenor (Business Park and The Landings), Ashford (Garden Centre and Braunton Inn) Pottington (Business Park) and Barnstaple Park-and-Ride (near the A39 downstream bridge – which could potentially have a huge catchment area.)

As the proposals for the Reinstatement Of The Bodmin-Wadebridge Railway, are doing, these proposals are replacing a walking and cycle path with a walking/cycling/single-track rail route.

This pair of South-West proposals could set an important design precedent, that can be applied in other places across the UK.

Are These Two Routes Substantially Level?

Thinking about this similar design, were the two original rail routes built as level as possible, so they are now easy walking and cycling routes?

I suspect, that there’s only a couple of metres difference between the two ends of this route at Barnstaple. So it could be the case here!

If thar is the case, it would mean that less energy would be needed to travel the route!

The Trams

This paragraph from the Trams page on the web site describes the trams.

This will be a modern community- and commuter railway, which will run throughout the year. Its scenic location will also make it highly attractive to tourists. It will use lightweight, battery-electric vehicles – like traditional trams, but without the overhead wires – capable of running safely on-road, and quickly off-road. These vehicles are environmentally-friendly, and very quiet. Visually, and in terms of infrastructure, the railway will be low-impact.

I have liked the concept of coastal trams, even since I rode in the one along the Belgian coast, which I wrote about in Riding The Coast Tram.

A Level Route Would Be Beneficial

If I am right about the level nature of the route, this would mean smaller and lighter batteries would be needed to power the trams.


I suspect through-running would not be possible, unless the Tarka Line between Exeter and Barnstaple is electrified, as it is a rather challenging route for a light rail vehicle.

The vehicles also don’t probably have enough capacity, for what can be a busy route in the Peak.


I like this proposal and I have a feeling it will be imitated in the future.




August 1, 2020 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , ,


  1. […] Parkway Ashburton & Buckfastleigh junction railway Bristol West capacity enhancement Light railway extension to the Barnstaple Branch (Chivenor Braunton) “TawLink” Cirencester Community Rail Project Project Wareham – Complete The […]

    Pingback by Beeching Reversal: Fifty Disused Rail Lines On Track To Reopen « The Anonymous Widower | August 1, 2020 | Reply

  2. Firstly, the route between Braunton and Barnstaple is pretty level. Heading in the other direction Braunton – Ilfracombe becomes slightly more challenging.
    I would love to see this project carried out in 2 stages, because the real complexity is at the Barnstaple end given that the original route and structures have pretty much disappeared following on from the new bridge across the Taw estuary and revisions to the road layout and demolition of the old wharf buildings on the west side of the Taw.
    So, the easiest way to deal with this in 2 stages would be to rebuild Braunton to Barnstaple Town and use that as a ‘temporary’ terminus before deciding whether to then extend over the river to Barnstaple station. Road running could in theory be possible after leaving Barnstaple Town but I suspect the curve will be too tight to get onto the long bridge and there would need to be extensive traffic light controls to manage traffic over the bridge and in the lead up to.
    The sensible, but certainly not cheapest option, would be to rebuild a bridge basically following the original rail route to the existing Barnstaple station.
    I’d love to see an eventual extension back to Ilfracombe but economically I doubt this could ever be justified despite the enhancement it would provide to the local area. Maybe every other service could be extended to Ilfracombe but the main core being Barnstaple – Braunton.

    Comment by Andrew Bruton | August 1, 2020 | Reply

  3. Thanks for that.

    At least Newton’s Friend can be used to charge the tram on the outrun to Braunton.

    The plans seem fairly detailed, that I wouldn’t be surprised to find, that they’d been run through some serious engineers.

    These very light rail trams are also very light, so the structures across the tivers could be very light.

    Comment by AnonW | August 1, 2020 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: