The Anonymous Widower

Over 10,000 People Use Reopened Dartmoor Line In First Two Weeks

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from the Dartmoor Line.

These are the first three paragraphs of the press release.

More than 10,000 people have travelled on the Dartmoor Line in the first two weeks since its reopening.

The line reopened for regular year-round, all-week passenger services on Saturday 20 November and demand for the trains linking Okehampton and Exeter has continued to remain high.

The reopening of the Dartmoor Line is the first of the Government’s Restoring Your Railway schemes, made possible thanks to over £40 million Government investment.

All concerned must be very pleased, especially as it was delivered £10 million under budget and within nine months, ahead of time.

I described my first use of the new route to Okehampton in A Few Hours In Okehampton, where I came to this conclusion.

Exeter and Okehampton is a well-thought out reopening, that will be welcomed in the South West of England.

It would appear the passenger numbers confirm my conclusion.

Since my visit to Okehampton, I have wondered, whether the apparent success of the Okehampton reopening, would have any other effects.

In the December 2021 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article, which is entitled South West Seeks More Reopenings, with a sub-title of Okehampton Service Could Be A Precursor.

The article details a number of projects.

Marsh Barton Station

A new Marsh Barton station is under construction and has a December 2022 opening date.

Edginswell Station

A new Edginswell station is being planned to serve Torbay Hospital on the Riviera Line, with a possible opening of 2025.

Collumpton And Wellington Stations

The last budget chipped in five million, so that preferred options and a full business case can be developed for these two new stations.

  • Collumpton station will probably be developed at the site of the old station, which is close to Collumpton Services on the M5.
  • Wellington station will probably be on a new site at Longworth Farm, where five hundred houses are being developed.

The Modern Railways article also says this about housing.

Thousands of houses are expected to be built in both towns in the next decade, making provision of railway stations highly desirable to avoid soaring road congestion.

Network Rail and Great Western Railway also seem to be experimenting with different service patterns through the two stations.

  • Both hourly and two-hourly services have been tested.
  • In the December 2021 timetable there is now a two-hourly GWR Castle service over the Taunton and Exeter stretch, that will call at the two new stations, when they open.
  • To have an hourly service there will also be a Taunton and Exeter shuttle.

This service would provide access to education and employment in Exeter, Taunton and Bristol.

The cost benefit ratio is above the Government’s limit for backing of two.

Opening of the two new stations is pencilled in for 2025.

Barnstaple And Axminster

The Modern Railways article also says this.

As part of the Devon Metro concept, Devon County Council aspires to extend further eastwards the hourly Barnstaple services that currently terminate at Exeter Central, perhaps as far as Axminster.

This would need track improvements East of Pinhoe station.

The current timings of the two sections are as follows.

  • Exeter Central and Axminster – 37 minutes
  • Exeter Central and Barnstaple – 74 minutes

These timings probably mean that a round trip between Axminster and Barnstaple can be done in a convenient four hours, so an hourly service would need four trains.

From sometime next year, when the frequency of the Exeter Central and Okehampton service becomes hourly, the services along the route will be as follows.

  • Exeter St. Davids and Axminster – Hourly
  • Exeter Central and Barnstaple – Hourly
  • Exeter Central and Okehampton – Hourly

There is also a service, that runs every thirty minutes between Exmouth and Paignton via Exeter Central and Exeter St. Davids, Newton Abbot and Torquay.

The frequencies on the various sections would be as follows.

  • Barnstaple and Crediton – One tph
  • Okehampton and Crediton – One tph
  • Crediton and Exeter St. Davids – Two tph
  • Paignton and Exeter St. Davids – At least two tph
  • Exeter St. Davids and Exeter Central – Five tph
  • Exeter Central and Axminster – One tph
  • Exeter Central and Exmouth – Two tph


  1. tph is trains per hour.
  2. Other services run between Exeter St. Davids and Paignton stations.
  3. In recent years a new station at Cranbrook has opened between Exeter Central and Axminster.

Extending the Barnstaple and Exeter Central service to Axminster would double the frequency on the Exeter Central and Axminster section.

Axminster station is shown in this Google Map.


  1. The station has two platforms.
  2. The station appears to have a bridge with lifts.
  3. The station has a good road connection and the parking could probably be extended.

Axminster station could certainly handle a fast train between London and Exeter, a stopping train to Barnstaple and all the passengers.

Devon Metro

It does appear that the services of the Devon Metro are coming together.

  • Paignton and Exmouth is already running.
  • Barnstaple and Exeter Central is already running.
  • Okehampton and Exeter Central has just started.
  • Exeter St. Davids and Taunton via new stations at Collumpton and Wellington is being planned.
  • Barnstaple and Exeter Central needs to be extended to Axminster.

How many other cities in the UK could benefit from a metro of this quality?

Bere Alston And Tavistock

The Modern Railways article also says this.

Meanwhile, further west on the former Southern network, restoration of services from Bere Alston to Tavistock has long been proposed, giving Tavistock a rail link to Plymouth. Christian Irwin, Network Rail’s Industry Programme Manager (South West), who oversaw the Okehampton reopening that came in early and underbudget, says he is keen to repeat the trick on the Tavistock route.

It is probably more difficult than at Okehampton.

  • The trackbed is mainly intact, but the track has been lifted.
  • The track to be laid is shorter than at Okehampton.
  • Two structures at the Southern end need to be replaced.
  • A new station needs to be built at Tavistock.

Devon County Council seems to be in control of the land needed.

Proposed services seem to be as follows.

  • Plymouth and Gunnislake via Bere Alston – One train per two hours (tp2h)
  • Plymouth and Tavistock via Bere Alston – One tph

Overall it looks like the Tavistock project will be more expensive than that at Okehampton, but there would appear to be more contributions from developers.

Devon County Council are hoping that the Tavistock link could be build in the next decade.

Tavistock And Okehampton

After the reconnection of Tavistock to the National Rail network, the council would hope to complete the link between Tavistock and Okehampton.

This would give the following benefits.

  • Improved public transport connectivity in West Devon and North Cornwall.
  • Improve revenue potential at Okehampton and Tavistock stations.
  • Create an easier freight route.
  • Create an alternative route, if the coastal route is closed.

It is a challenging project, but I feel it will be possible by perhaps 2035.


December 31, 2021 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. The improvement in railway infrastructure in the eastern half of Devon really is very, very impressive and only highlights the lack of progress in the rest of the county. I think the last new station west of Ivybridge opened in 1904 and both Plympton and Marsh Mills seem like obvious places that would benefit from new stations.
    The issues on the line between Axminster and Exeter are the same as so many other places in the rest of the country – how to fit both local and long-distances services on the same stretch of track; Cranbrook, for example, doesn’t need an hourly service to London but a half-hourly service to Exeter instead. I would be very interested to know what infrastructure improvements would be needed to make this possible but I haven’t seen a serious study published yet.

    Comment by cjw714 | December 31, 2021 | Reply

    • According to the Modern Railways article, Network Rail have recently done a study and recommend a 6km loop between Cranbrook and Wimple and an extension of the Honiton loop.

      Comment by AnonW | December 31, 2021 | Reply

  2. I find the whole concept of the Devon Railway being regarded as a Metro a perversion of the term. No way can you describe a network running 1 or 2 tph and covering such a wide area serving two major conurbations, small towns and villages as a citywide railway system. That said the objective of improving transport connections within Devon can only be good for the county’s economy and the environment.
    Reading through the 2014 Jacobs Consultant’s report undertaken for Network Rail for the construction of a diversionary route, the option via Oakhampton which is described as Option A goes on to conclude that the route south of the newly opened Dartmoor Line has the following issues that will need to be overcome, for example:
    “The Meldon viaduct, an 165 metre long and 46 metre high listed structure located immediately south of Meldon quarry, is too badly deteriorated for re-use. A new structure would be required, adjacent to the existing viaduct.”
    From Meldon Quarry to Bere Alston, the dismantled line would need to be replaced. Some structures would need to be reinstated and the land for a new trackbed purchased.
    In some places where the trackbed has been lost; e.g. where West Devon Borough Council offices and an NHS clinic occupy a site adjoining original Tavistock North station, with a housing development on the trackbed north of Tavistock viaduct, it will be necessary to construct a new alignment and the construction of a new station.
    Where long sections of the route have been developed as a cycleway, it will either necessitate repurchase or realignment.
    This overall route poses a number of issues for maintenance:
    “The route will not meet current maintenance clearance standards. Some sections would only be maintainable outside traffic hours.
    It is likely that a proportion of existing earthworks will be deficient, as they were constructed prior to a modern knowledge of soil mechanics, adding a measure of uncertainty. The section between Tavistock and Okehampton, which is largely constructed on rock, may represent less of a problem.
    Crossing the north of Dartmoor, the route is steep in railway terms, with a predominant gradient of 1 in 75. However there are even steeper gradients on the current route west of Newton Abbot.”
    The report goes on to say that there is a need to “increase clearances at bridges over the railway.”
    As a local route, timings from Exeter to Plymouth are probably not critical adding an estimated 4 minutes for a notional run of a Class 220 Voyager, however for current GWR through services reversals add at least a further 10 to 14 minutes.
    Flood resilience represents a challenge with this option. The Jacobs report said that the trackbed in the River Creedy valley on the newly opened Dartmoor Line ….”would need to be raised, and a number of overbridges will require renewal requiring the works would need closure of the Barnstaple line for an extended period.” I’m not aware that has happened.
    The report goes on to say that …”up to 13km of track may need to be raised by up to three metres on a combination of higher and wider embankments (5.2km) and replacement of embankments by low viaducts on the same horizontal alignment (7.8km).
    New viaducts would improve floodplain connectivity and compensate for the impact of embankment raising and widening.”
    The locations for this work were not identified.
    Raising the track level through areas of flood risk were identified as costing ….”up to £290 million in a worst case scenario, in addition to the £875m identified for core works.”

    Comment by fammorris | January 1, 2022 | Reply

  3. I have a feeling that using the term Metro or another good name helps marketing of the system. London certainly chose Overground for marketing reasons and it did not detract.

    Thanks for the other info.

    I believe very much, that Network Rail and GWR have a plan to use the Dartmoor Line , should the route through Dawlish be blocked.

    A five-car Class 802 train could use Okehampton station.

    Express coaches could run an Okehampton and Bodmin Parkway service on the A30 all the way.

    With a reverse at Exeter St. Davids, I reckon it would take about fifty minutes longer. I’ll put a better estimate in the post.

    I also suspect that Okehampton Parkway station will be designed for emergencies, with a fast connection to the A30.

    Comment by AnonW | January 1, 2022 | Reply

    • How about DevonNet, DevNet or if a South Australian marketing consultancy got the job of suggesting a name, it’s FritzNet (I won’t tell you what a Queensland marketing consultant might call it)😉
      I’d like to believe that Network Rail and GWR would want to use the Dartmoor Line extended to Plymouth as a diversionary route, but I’m inclined to think that with the apparent absence of some of the infrastructure resilient measures already missing, and some of the other measures I left out, the government will want to fund it on the cheap, after all a conservative 2014 estimate amounting to more than £1 billion isn’t small change.
      BTW don’t forget the need to also reverse assuming your diverted train were to call at Plymouth.
      Thinking in terms of the Plymouth to Newton Abbot stretch and the line into Torquay, you’d also need line capacity over the diversionary route if you were to run any alternative Exeter – Newton Abbot services. Now that looks problematic.

      Comment by fammorris | January 1, 2022 | Reply

    • Metro as an aspirational name, but the delivery for the foreseeable future is what the North Americans call commuter rail.

      Comment by MilesT | January 3, 2022 | Reply

      • I also think reusing of existing tracks (vs refreshing trackbed and relaying appropriately) is a false economy.

        Put the best foot forward for reopening lines.

        Comment by MilesT | January 3, 2022

      • I think GWR are playing a long game. I suspect they make most money from the long distance services and this will probably be the case under GBR.

        It should also be noted that GWR made a five-figure contribution to the reopening of a second platform at Bodmin General.

        With the Class 802 trains, which can split and join in two minutes I can see Bodmin, Newquay, Paignton and Okehampton all getting five-car services from London that split and join at Plymouth and Exeter, with perhaps three trains per day to Reading and London.

        For these reasons, I suspect that Okehampton Parkway or Okehampton will become a proper railhead, with express coaches to Bideford, Bude and Launceston to open up North Cornwall and West Devon.

        Interestingly, Paddington and Okehampton could be about three hours by rail by a well-driven direct Class 802 train and Google is giving three hours and four hours by road.

        As to your point about using existing tracks on the Okehampton project Network Rail delivered the project early and under budget and they relaid the tracks using a new machine. I think the result was down to excellent project management. Have Network Rail finally found out, that this was the problem with their performance?

        I also believe that a lot of our Victorian railways were Jerry-built and documentation was bad. So doing any work like signalling or electrification, where details aren’t known is difficult. But if your mate laid the track a couple of months ago, it’s a lot easier.

        Comment by AnonW | January 3, 2022

      • I’ve personally seen, read about or know people involved in US involved in Mass Transit and for the life of me, beyond the fact that a lot of Commuter rail setups often (although not universally) consist of 3000-4000 hp locos hauling 2 – 6 double deck carriages, I can’t work out what the common features are that tie systems as diverse as ones carrying from as little as 1000 up to 350000 people a week on single lines right up to network wide systems, sometimes on dedicated tracks but often on freight lines.

        Comment by fammorris | January 3, 2022

  4. Thinking about the name. Metro seems to be a popular choice. Over the years I’ve noted the Cambridge Metro, Chiltern Metro, Devon Metro, Greater Bristol Metro, Mid-Cornwall Metro, Shenfield Metro, Tees Valley Metro, Tyne and Wear Metro and West Midlands Metro.

    Southeastern also offer Metro services.

    Comment by AnonW | January 3, 2022 | Reply

  5. Thanks for the extra details from the Modern Railway article.

    I can understand why people feel metro isn’t the right word to describe lines that run through the countryside but given the fact the original Metropolitan Line used to run to a junction in the middle of fields and still terminates in a small market town it seems picky to be too pedantic over the use of the word. Commuter rail doesn’t sound right either as a lot of the development is aimed at leisure traffic.

    Given how busy the A 303 and the M5 are you’d be very lucky to do Okehampton to London in less than 4 hours during the summer so anything that helps get traffic off the roads can only be a good thing.

    Comment by cjw714 | January 3, 2022 | Reply

  6. I always test railway services by the dutiful child or boss test. Say for instance you lived in London and your mother lived in Okehampton. Could you go down for the day and buy her a good lunch? Or say you were boss of a company with a head office in London and a branch in Okehampton could you visit for the day and have a few drinks and nibbles after work?

    Okehampton certainly passes. It also means that if your mother drove and lived anywhere from Launceston round to Barnstaple, you could meet in Okehampton.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see a London and Okehampton service and failing that train times and platforms arranged for a quick cross platform interchange.

    Comment by AnonW | January 3, 2022 | Reply

  7. AnonW you say that GWR made a five-figure contribution to the reopening of a second platform at Bodmin General, well sort of, the grant was delivered under the Customers and Committed Investment Fund (CCIF). This fund is underpinned by the DfT and run by most Train Operating Companies who invite applications from bodies involved in their local communities ranging from significant capital expenditure in community run activities like Heritage Railways (Bodmin General platform is an example) down to organisations with even the loosest of association to the railway such as teaching railway safety to young children or using Station resources to plant and grow vegetables for the disadvantaged. The selection and recommendation of grants is overseen by independent stakeholders and sent to the DfT for approval.

    Comment by fammorris | January 3, 2022 | Reply

    • A friend regularly goes to Bodmin and usually drives, as it is often a pain to get from Bodmin Parkway.

      Comment by AnonW | January 3, 2022 | Reply

      • Sensible man, even Bodmin General is half a mile from the town centre

        Comment by fammorris | January 3, 2022

  8. Too be fair the Metropolitan Railway originally began as the world’s first underground railway running between Paddington and Farringdon. The extension of the Railway to Verney Junction only occurred when it took advantage of the building of Grand Central Railway’s line.
    I only raised the question of calling everything a Metro because it eventually dilutes the meaning of the term to marketing-speak. As AnonW has illustrated there are so many examples and how you could bracket Chiltern Metro, Devon Metro, Mid-Cornwall Metro with the other operations is difficult to understand.

    Comment by fammorris | January 3, 2022 | Reply

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