The Anonymous Widower

A Few Hours In Okehampton

Today, I took a trip by train to Okehampton and spent a couple of hours in the town.

I took the 10:04 from Paddington and after changing at Exeter St. Davids, I arrived in Okehampton at 13:11

Coming back, I took the 15:24 from Okehampton and arrived in Paddington at 18:24.

So the journeys took about three hours.

These pictures show Okehampton station.

Note.

  1. The train was two Class 150 trains coupled together.
  2. I suspect the platform is long enough to take a GWR Castle train
  3. The bus in the pictures is the 118, of which more later.
  4. It looked like a buffet was under construction.
  5. The new train information displays.

I took the bus down to Okehampton, where I took these pictures, as I walked around.

Note, that the first three pictures show the museum and the cycle works cafe, where I had a coffee and a delicious gluten-free flapjack.

I have a few thoughts on my journey, both now and in the future.

The 118 Bus

The 118 bus runs between Tavistock and Okehampton station.

  • It serves the villages in between.
  • It meets the trains from Exeter and takes them to Okehampton Town Centre.
  • It picks people up from Okehampton Town Centre and takes them to the station just before the trains leave for Exeter.
  • It accepts contactless payment.

It is a well-designed bus route that links passengers with the trains to and from Exeter.

Many other towns could follow Okehampton’s lead.

Walking Between Station And The Town Centre

I could certainly walk down the hill, but one of the locals said that it rather a stiff walk up the hill that takes about fifteen minutes, if you’re up to it. He also felt a taxi would be about a fiver.

Could A Battery Train Work The Service between Exeter And Okehampton Station?

Consider.

  • It is 24.8 miles between Exeter St. David and Okehampton stations.
  • It is a rise of under 200 metres.
  • The Class 150 trains climbed the hill at around 30 mph, but in places it was lower.
  • Hitachi, Stadler and Vivarail are talking about battery-electric trains with a range of fifty miles.
  • I was talking to one of the Great Western Railway staff and he said in the days of steam, the trains used to roll down the hill into Exeter.
  • There is the 18 MW Den Brook Wind Farm close to Okehampton.
  • With regenerative braking rolling down would recharge the batteries.

I suspect, that designing a battery-electric train to climb the hill is possible.

My rough estimate says that a battery of around 500 KWh could be enough.

Are The People Of Devon Going To Use The Train?

I took these pictures as I joined the train back to Exeter.

The people were a mixture of those arriving from Exeter and those returning to Exeter, but most seats were taken on the way back.

I can see Great Western Railway running Castles, like the one in the picture, for services on this route in the Summer, both to attract passengers and to cope with their numbers.

Local Reaction

I talked to several local people and they were all pleased that the service has been reinstated.

The only complaint was that it should have happened sooner.

Is A Day Trip Possible?

Suppose you live in London and your mother or other close relative lives in Okehampton.

Would it be possible to be able to visit them on their birthday for a good lunch?

Consider.

  • At the present time, trains from London, connect to the Okehampton service about every two hours.
  • The first connecting service leaves Paddington at 08:04.
  • Trains take around three hours between Paddington and Okehampton.
  • From probably May 2022, there will be hourly connections to Okehampton.
  • The last London train leaves Exeter at 20:46.

If you wanted to be a real hero, you could always take the Night Riviera back to London, which leaves Exeter at 0100.

I would say that if they planned it properly, a day trip from London to Okehampton by train, is feasible for a special occasion.

Will Great Western Railway Ever Run Direct Trains Between London Paddington And Okehampton?

I doubt this would be a regular service but I do believe that it is technically feasible.

  • Trains would need to reverse at Exeter St. Davids.
  • Trains would probably be limited to five car Class 802 trains.
  • Okehampton station could probably accommodate a five-car Class 802 train.
  • I estimate that the journey time would be a few minutes under three hours.

It should be noted that Paignton gets around three trains per day (tpd) from Paddington.

It might be that if the demand was there, a few trains per day could be run to and from London, by splitting and joining with the Paignton service at Exeter St. Davids.

  • If both services were run by five-car trains, there would be a ten-car service to and from London.
  • It certainly looks that GWR wouldn’t have to spend a great deal to implement the service.
  • The extra capacity of the five-car train might help commuters into Exeter.

It  is likely that this service wouldn’t run until Okehampton Parkway station is opened, which would attract travellers from the West, who would arrive at the station along the A 30 dual-carriageway

I can certainly see a service leaving Okehampton at around seven in the morning and getting into London about ten, paired with a late afternoon/evening train home.

It should be noted, that First Group with their Lumo service between London and Edinburgh, seem to negotiate for paths that create revenue.

But I do wonder, if one of the reasons , that Great Western Railway, Network Rail, Devon County Council, the Department of Transport and the Government were all very much in favour of reopening this route, is that it creates a valid alternative route between London and Plymouth and all places to the West, should the main route via Dawlish be breached again by the sea.

Okehampton station and the future Okehampton Parkway station are both close to the A30 which would allow express coaches to Plymouth and all over West Devon and Cornwall to bypass the trouble.

Hopefully, because the alterative route has been enabled the worst won’t happen.

Conclusion

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

 

 

November 26, 2021 Posted by | Food, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Marsh Barton Station – A Ride-To-Work Station

According to this article on pbctoday, work has started at the new Marsh Barton station in Exeter.

This first paragraph from the article makes it clear.

Graham has commenced works on the construction of the new £16m Marsh Barton railway station in Exeter.

This Google Map shows the location.

Note.

  1. The Riviera Line between Paignton and Exeter towards the Western side of the map.
  2. Clapperbrook Lane running to the South-West corner of the map over the railway.
  3. The large blue-clad building with the chimney, is the Viridor energy-from-waste plant.
  4. Marsh Barton itself is a large trading estate to the North-East of the railway.

The station will be built where Clapperbrook Lane crosses the railway,

This document of the Devon County Council (DCC) web site gives more details about the station.

This image from the DCC document shows how the completed station will look.

These are my thoughts.

Crossing The Tracks

A cycle and foot bridge will be built parallel to the current Clapperbrook Lane East Bridge over the railway.

The DCC document says this about the bridge.

The key changes from the previous proposal relates to the ramps and access
between the two platforms. The previous design included ramps running parallel to
the railway, with long ramps and imposing structures due to Network Rail
requirements for their asset. The redesign now includes the ramps and a new bridge
constructed parallel to Clapperbrook Lane. This will instead be a Devon County
Council-owned asset and allows Devon County Council standards to be applied for
their pedestrian bridges. This is more in line with preferences expressed by disability
groups who supported shorter length but slightly steeper gradient with resting
platforms.

It looks to me that the final design will be much more aesthetically-pleasing than some of the structure Network Rail have erected lately.

These pictures show Network Rail’s traditional approach at Horden station.

I feel the Devonian approach could be better, when I see it.

From the Google Map 3D image of the station, it looks like the bridge could be already under construction, so I don’t think, I’ll have long to wait.

The Platforms

The DCC document says that there will be two 124 metre long platforms, which will take six-car local trains.

It strikes me that although 124 metres can accommodate a formation of three Class 150 trains, it might be  too short in the future.

Especially, as trains likely to be available in battery-electric versions, which will surely be used to decarbonise the Riviera Line in the future, all have cars of 23 metres or longer.

Both platforms appear to have just a single waiting shelter.

Cycle Parking

There are twenty parking spaces for cycles on each side of the line.

The DCC document says this about local housing and cycling.

The station will be within reasonable cycling distance of the 2,500 dwelling South
West Exeter strategic allocation and Alphington village and so forms an important
part of mitigating traffic impacts on routes on the western side of the city.

Is there enough provision for the secure storage of cycles?

Disabled Parking

There are just three parking spaces for disabled passengers.

Car Parking

There are no generally-available car parking spaces.

The DCC document says this about car parking.

The scheme will also support aims for low-car development aspirations as part of the
emerging Liveable Exeter housing plans, which includes proposals for strategic
levels of housing in the Marsh Barton area, all within easy walking distance of the
station.

But will the station persuade local residents to forgo driving into Exeter and use the train?

Who Will Use The Station?

The DCC document talks of Marsh Barton station being a destination station for those who work in the area.

It also says this about leisure use.

In addition, the existing Clapperbrook Lane adjacent to the station provides an important link into the Riverside Valley multi-use trail network for leisure trips as well as commuter journeys to RD&E and County Hall, within a short walk/cycle distance of the station. Being located adjacent to a high quality, attractive cycle network offers huge potential to improve integration between rail and cycling.

Currently the lane is very popular with over 400 cyclists per day recorded crossing the rail bridge; however, it is narrow with poor visibility and although lightly trafficked is not suitable for all young families, people with disabilities or people less confident on bicycles.

I have a feeling that the station will need some extra facilities to attract more passengers. Ideas like a drop-off and pick-up facility, a warm place to wait and perhaps a local shuttle bus come to mind.

But as I said in the title it is very much a Ride-To-Work station.

Conclusion

The station has an interesting feature in the bridge over the railway, which gives full step-free access.

But I do feel that some of the details of the station will need some extra thought.

From other pages on the web, it appears the station is being constructed under a Design and Build contract with experienced station builder; Graham Construction. So hopefully, the details will be properly sorted.

The proof of the quality of the design will be in the usage figures.

May 26, 2021 Posted by | Design, Transport/Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Along The Hope Valley Line – 13th July 2020

These pictures show my return trip between Manchester Piccadilly and Dore & Totley stations.

There are an assorted set of stations.

  • Some stations appear to have new platforms.
  • Marple station has a impressive step-free bridge.
  • Some stations may be Listed or should be.
  • There are walking routes from some stations.
  • Some stations need improvements to the access.

I also have some thoughts on the service.

The Class 150 Trains

The Class 150 trains have these characteristics.

  • Installed Power – 426 kW
  • Weight – 35.8 tonnes
  • Operating Speed – 75 mph.

This compares with these for a Class 195 train.

  • Installed Power – 780 kW
  • Weight – 40 tonnes
  • Operating Speed – 100 mph.
  • Acceleration – 0.83 m/sec/sec

Unfortunately, I can’t find the acceleration for a Class 150 train, but I suspect that it’s not as good as the Class 195 train.

  • I was in a Class 150 train, for both journeys.
  • IThe train was on time both ways.
  • The engine under my carriage wasn’t working that hard.
  • The train was trundling around at around 60 mph.
  • The operating speed of the line is 90 mph.

So I suspect, that a well-driven Class 195 train will shave a few minutes from the journey time.

Transport For The North’s Plan For Manchester And Sheffield

Transportbfor the North objective for Manchester Piccadilly and Sheffield stations can be summed up as follows.

Four tph in forty minutes.

As current trains take over anhour, it could be a tough ask!

The Timetable

The timetable isn’t very passenger-friendly with no easy-to-remember clock-face timetable.

This must be sorted.

Hopefully, it will increase the number of passengers riding on the route.

Battery Electric Trains

Consider.

  • Sheffield station will be electrified for High Speed Two.
  • It is likely that the route between Dore & Totley and Sheffield station will be electrified.
  • There is electrification at the Manchester end of the route.
  • The distance without electrification in the middle is probably about thirty-six miles.
  • Fifty-sixty miles seems a typical range quoted for a battery electric train by train manufacturers.

As electric trains generally accelerate faster than their diesel equivalent, these could run the route reliably and save time on the journey.

Conclusion

I’m coming round to the opinion, that Transport for the North’s objectives for the route can be met without electrification.

July 14, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Industry Urged To Decide On Alternative Technology

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Rail Magazine.

This is the first paragraph.

The rail industry needs to decide on the right approach to alternative technology as soon as possible, to ensure the industry can continue to reduce emissions.

Speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Rail Group, Anthony Perratt of the RSSB, outlined how there was a huge opportunity to replace ageing Sprinter trains with new units powered by alternative energy sources like batteries and hydrogen.

The Size Of The Opportunity

Sprinter trains in service of stored in the UK include.

These add up to 516 trains, with a total of 1035 cars.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Class 710 train, this is said.

TfL announced that it had placed a £260m order for 45 four-car Bombardier Aventra EMUs.

This works out at nearly £1,500,000 for each car of a modern train.

This means that replacement of the Sprinters, with new independently-powered trains, would be project of the order of £1.5billion.

That is a market, that would be very much desired by a train builder.

Battery, Diesel Or Hydrogen Power?

Diesel power is probably not a good idea, if it can be avoided.

The following points about hydrogen- and battery-powered trains should be noted.

  • Most hydrogen-powered trains are battery-powered trains, with a hydrogen fuel-cell to recharge the batteries.
  • Battery technology is improving fast.
  • Systems to rapidly charge batteries will be available in a couple of years.
  • Battery-powered trains can use existing electrification to charge the batteries.
  • Hydrogen-powered trains may need a large tank for the hydrogen, which limits passenger capacity.
  • Hydrogen-powered trains need a refuelling structure, which may be more difficult to install, than a charging system for battery trains.

I feel that innovative engineers will be able to find ways to enable battery-powered trains on routes that need independently powered trains.

Conclusion

I don’t think, that we’ll see many long-term applications of hydrogen-powered trains in the UK.

 

 

 

July 23, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Exploring The Tamar Valley Line

The Tamar Valley Line runs up the Tamar Valley between  Plymouth to Gunnislake stations, the latter of which is over the border in Cornwall.

These pictures show the journey.

The following sections are my thoughts on the journey.

The Scenery

Rarely, have I travelled on a railway with such spectacular views.

Calstock

This Google Map shows Calstock.

Note the Grade II* Listed Calstock Viaduct as the railway crosses the Tamar and the station on the Northern side of the river.

I suspect that if the railway ceased to run to Calstock and over the viaduct, there would be a revolution.

But having lived at the end of the then-erratic Felixstowe Branch line in the 1960s, I can see how if the service would be improved to hourly with a decent train, customers mysteriously appear. I suspect too, that road connections between Felixstowe and Ipswich are a lot better than between Calstock and Plymouth.

Bere Alston

This Google Map shows Bere Alston station.

Note the two lines leading from the station, with one going South to Plymouth and the other going North to Gunnislake.

The line that used to go to Tavistock can also be seen going East.

I have followed this in my helicopter and you can see much of track bed.

The Train Service

I just went up and came back on the same train, as a fellow passenger said there was nothing at Gunnislake. He was actually walking down from Bere Alston station.

So as I had other things to do rather than wait two hours on a Cornish hill for the next train, I may have taken the right decision. Or not as the case may be!

If you look at the way the train service is organised, currently one Class 150 train is dedicated to the route.

As it takes 45 minutes to go up from Plymouth to Gunnislake and then after a wait of typically six minutes, it comes down in a further 45 minutes, the train service is not the easiest to run efficiently.

Looking at the timings of the individual sections of the line we get the following going up.

  • Plymouth to St. Budeaux Victoria Road – 10 minutes
  • St. Budeaux Victoria Road to Bere Alston – 14 minutes
  • Bere Alston to Gunnislake – 20 minutes

Coming down we get the following times.

  • Gunnislake to Bere Alston – 18 minutes
  • Bere Alston to St. Budeaux Victoria Road – 13 minutes
  • St. Budeaux Victoria Road to Plymouth – 11 minutes

The following also complicate the train scheduler’s problem.

  • The line is single-track with no passing loops.
  • The driver has to change ends for the reverse at Bere Alston station.

On the other hand, a more powerful train could probably save time on the climb and if it had good brakes, it could save time of the descent.

At least St. Budeaux Victoria Road station is where the driver organises the signalling. Wikipedia says this.

Trains heading towards Bere Alston must collect the branch train staff from a secure cabinet on the platform before proceeding, as the line is operated on the One Train Working system with only a single unit allowed on the branch at a time. Conversely the staff has to be returned to the cabinet by the driver on the return journey before the unit can leave the branch and return to Plymouth.

If trains could climb up from St. Budeaux Victoria Road to Gunnislake and return within the hour and they could pass somewhere South of Bere Ferrers station, then an hourly service would be possible, with modern signalling!

But it would need two trains!  And trains are something, that GWR doesn’t have in abundance.

The Two Stations At St. Budeaux

This Google Map shows the two stations at St. Budeaux.

According to this except from Wikipedia, the two stations; St. Budeaux Victoria Road and St. Budeaux Ferry Road were once connected.

A connection to the Great Western Railway was installed east of the station on 21 March 1941 to offer the two companies alternative routes between Plymouth and St Budeaux should either line be closed due to bombing during World War II. On 7 September 1964 the original line into Devonport was closed, and all trains use the former Great Western route and the wartime connection to reach St Budeaux, renamed St Budeaux Victoria Road to differentiate it from St Budeaux Ferry Road, opened by the Great Western Railway on 1 June 1904.

The line from St Budeaux to Bere Alston was singled on 7 September 1970, services having ceased beyond there (towards Tavistock North and Okehampton) in May 1968.

I would suspect that as there appears to be a fair amount of space in the area and with some innovative trackwork Network Rail could design something, that allowed an hourly service to Gunnislake from Plymouth and/or St. Budeaux Victoria Road.

Sort the two stations at St. Budeaux and it would surely allow extra stopping services from Plymouth along the Cornish Main Line. An hourly stopping train would give stations between Plymouth and Bt. Budeaux, a much friendlier two trains per hour (tph).

Onward To Tavistock And Okehampton

There is a Future Options section in the Wikipedia entry for Okehampton station. This is said.

Both Railfuture and the former MP for Totnes, Anthony Steen, have in the past proposed the reinstatement of the line between Okehampton and Bere Alston, thereby reconnecting the station with Plymouth. The reopening of the link would restore the continuous circuit of railway linking the towns around Dartmoor. On 18 March 2008 Devon County Council backed a separate proposal by developers Kilbride Community Rail to construct 750 houses in Tavistock that includes reopening part of this route from Bere Alston to a new railway station in Tavistock.

Whether this happens at any time in the future, will depend on various factors.

  • The need for housing developments in the area.
  • Tourism.
  • Quarrying and the transport of stone.
  • Commuting from Okehampton and Tavistock.

With the link to the Tarka Line, it would deliver an alternative route from Plymouth to Exeter and London, if the weather attacks Dawlish again.

A Dawlish Diversion

It sounds all well and good for a diversion for between London and Cornwall, should Dawlish be closed by the weather or for engineering work.

But after looking at what has been created at Dawlish and writing about it in Walking Between Dawlish And Dawlish Warren Stations, I teel that something has been created, that should be able to stand up to what happened in 2014.

But even if the line is never broken, as it was in 2014, there will always be a need to have a diversion for important engineering works, that might mean the line is closed for a couple of days.

So I think that Network Rail’s plan, which was reported about in the June 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, that I wrote about in Common Sense Between Exeter And Plymouth, could happen.

In the post I said this.

The Modern Railways article also says.

  • The line’s function would be to provide a modest service serving local stations and to offer diversionary capability.
  • Eight new stations would be provided.
  • The line would be unlikely to be electrified.
  • To help funding new housing would be built along the line.

A double-track railway with diesel trains would do the following.

  • Improve the economy of Devon around the fringes of Dartmoor.
  • Help in the development of much-needed housing in the area.
  • Provide a much-needed freight route to and from the peninsular.
  • Provide sufficient capacity in the event of problems at Dawlish.

But knowing Murphy’s Law, if the line were to reinstated, the sea at Dawlish would behave itself.

Could the line even be built as a single track, but big enough, so that it would allow five-car or perhaps even longer Class 800 trains to run between Plymouth and Exeter in an emergency or when the main line is closed for other reasons?

The timings for Class 150 trains on the line are as follows.

  • Plymouth to Bere Alston – 24 minutes
  • Okehampton to Exeter St. Davids – 44 minutes

I would estimate that  Bere Alston to Okehampton could take about forty minutes, via Tavistock.

I think we can safely say that a modern train like a Class 172 train could do Exeter to Plymouth in under two hours.

As Exeter to Plymouth takes around an hour, I think it should be possible for something like a 100 mph Class 165 train to go round the complete circle in under three hours.

This would mean that to run a Devon Circular service with one tph in both directions would need.

  • A rail link between Bere Alston and Okehampton via a new Tavistock station.
  • Three trains in both directions or six trains in total.
  • 100 mph diesel trains.
  • One or more passing loops or lengths of double-track
  • A solution that allows two different services at Bere Alston.

Additional services would also be provided in both directions..

  • Between Exeter and Yeoford, there would be two tph instead of one tph.
  • Between Plymouth and Bere Alston, there would be two tph instead of one tph.
  • One extra tph between Exeter and Plymouth.

A lot of stakeholders should like it.

Conclusion

I’ve just posted what I have seen and what I have read from trusted sources.

It would appear there is a lot of potential to improve the railways in Devon.

It also strikes me that a lot of what Network Rail are proposing doing is only undoing what was done by British Rail engineers in the 1960s.

At least, BR engineers didn’t follow Beeching’s recommendation of closing the Tamar Valley Line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 6, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Train Is This?

I took these pictures of a train coming from Barnstaple to Exeter.

But what type if train is it?

The last picture shows it is Class 150 train built in the 1980s by British Rail.

It is certainly a high quality refurbishment of 150263.

I’d much rather travel in this train, than a new Class 700 train.

Consider.

  • The seats were comfortable.
  • There were several tables in each car.
  • The toilet was one of the best I’ve seen.
  • The information system, tip-up seats and grab handles were all excellent.

The train even had it’s own wheelchair ramp stowed away in a secure metal cupboard.

I can’t find anything on the web about who did the refurbishment of this train.

My only thought, is that it was an in-house job and came from Laira with love!

The Truth About The Refurbishment

The August 2017 Edition of Modern Railways has a long article entitled Great Western Improvement Imminent, where on page 75, this is said.

The Class 150/2s are going through a refurbishment and repaint at Wabtec’s Doncaster plant

If all the 137 trainsets end up like this no-one will complain.

April 5, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 10 Comments