The Anonymous Widower

The Case For Okehampton Reopening

The title of this post in the same as that of an article by Jim Steer, in Issue 871 of Rail Magazine.

The article talks about the need to safeguard the rail route to the far South West of England and describes in detail, the problems of the current route, how it can be improved, so it is less likely to disruption and the problems of reopening the old London and South Western Railway route through Okehampton and Tavistock to Plymouth.

This is a quote, shown in bold in the article.

Politicians are coming round to the idea that more needs to be done to ensure the resilience of the South West’s rail services.

Reasons given for creating the Okehampton route include.

  • Creation of a second route between the Far South West and Exeter.
  • Housing in Okehampton and Tavistock.
  • Creation of a route for freight trains to the Far South West.
  • The route would serve one of the least accessible parts of England.
  • Create better access to Exeter and Plymouth for both educational and job opportunities.

But improving the rail links to the Far South West won’t come cheap and costs in the order of a billion pounds are mentioned.

The biggest problem if the Okehampton route is to be reopened, is probably the Meldon Viaduct, which is between Okehampton and Tavistock stations.


Costs may be high, but if climate change or the weather should make the Dawlish route unuseable, can we really cut Plymouth and Cornwall off from the rest of England?

Network Rail are stated to have developed a plan to improve the Dawlish route, but surely, as that could be destroyed as it was in 2014, now is the time to get some of our finest engineers to create a workable plan for the Okehampton route.

Perhaps Lord Foster or another architect or structural engineer, has an idea that could create a replacement Meldon Viaduct. This could be key to an affordable Okehampton route.

February 1, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Drilling Starts For ‘Hot Rocks’ Power In Cornwall

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

For as long as I can remember, there have been plans to tap the ‘hot rocks’ under Cornwall for heat and convert it into electricity.

Geothermal power is used in many places around the world.

The Wikipedia entry is worth a read and the Utility-Grade Stations section has this paragraph.

The largest group of geothermal power plants in the world is located at The Geysers, a geothermal field in California, United States. As of 2004, five countries (El Salvador, Kenya, the Philippines, Iceland, and Costa Rica) generate more than 15% of their electricity from geothermal sources.

This is also said.

Enhanced geothermal systems that are several kilometres in depth are operational in France and Germany and are being developed or evaluated in at least four other countries.

As the Cornish project appears to have a degree of EU funding, it looks like Cornwall is one of the four other countries.

The BBC also had a report on the Cornish drilling this morning. They made a point to say that this project has nothing to do with fracking.

Fracking is an emotive project, but we seem to forget that a lot of the engineering and drilling techniques used in the process are also used in other applications, like obtaining fresh water and drilling very deep holes, as is proposed in Cornwall.

It is also enlightening to look at this Wikipedia entry, which describes geothermal power in Germany.

This is said about the sustainability of the power source in Germany.

n the same year (2003) the TAB (bureau for technological impact assessment of the German Bundestag) concluded that Germany’s geothermal resources could be used to supply the entire base load of the country. This conclusion has regard to the fact that geothermal sources have to be developed sustainably because they can cool out if overused.

Based on this, I can understand the enthusiasm for using the technique in Cornwall.

On the BBC this morning, it was said that the Cornish borehole could produce enough electricity for 3,000 homes.

A page on the OVO Energy website, says this.

Household electricity use in the UK dropped under 4,000kWh for the first time in decades in 2014. At an average of 3,940kWh per home, this was about 20% higher than the global average for electrified homes of 3,370kWh.

At 4,000 kWh a year, a home would use an average of 0.46 kW per hour.

This means that to run 3,000 houses needs 1.4 MW per hour.

A typical price of a kWh of electricity is thirteen pence excluding VAT, which means that this plant could earn around £178 per hour or £1.6million a year.

A Project Video

Access the project video here.


I feel that geothermal power could have a promising future in Cornwall.






November 6, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , | 2 Comments

The Revival Of Sleeper Services In The UK

I like sleeper trains and have used them three times in recent years.

The Deutsche Bahn sleeper between Munich and Paris, had one big disadvantage compared to the two Scottish trips – Customer service was not up to the standard First Class passengers expect and get on the Caledonian Sleeper.

The biggest problem, was that there was no waiting facilities at Munich station, as everything closed a couple of hours before the train left.

The last trip I did down from Scotland was during the Commonwealth Games and after an evening session, I couldn’t find a hotel room in Glasgow. I got a First Class sleeper cabin all to myself for just over a hundred pounds, so it was probably cheaper than getting a room in the city and coming down by train in the morning.

Every time, I go North of the Border in future, I’ll always look into the possibility of taking a sleeper down after my visit.

In the UK, sleeper trains seem to be having a revival with both the Caledonian Sleeper and Night Riviera going through a process of upgrading with either new or refurbished carriages.

But in Europe, they seem to be declining.

I wonder what Nigel F***** would make of that one!

We certainly have a different attitude to railways in this country.

October 28, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Museum de Cruquius

The Museum de Cruquius is just up the road from The Hague near Haarlem, although our journey up wasn’t the easiest, because the motorway was closed.

It is well worth a visit as it shows a tremendous amount about how the Dutch have kept water at bay.

The enormous steam engine, which sadly doesn’t work, was actually built in Cornwall.

When I see a museum and engine like this, I do think it sad that London’s massive sewage engines at Crossness were just filled with sand and abandoned in the 1960s.

Both sites incidentally, are about the same age!

October 10, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Devolution For Cornwall

This report on the BBC is entitled Cornwall devolution: First county with new powers.

It is not full devolution, but various powers have been given to the Council.

  • Give Cornwall Council powers for franchising and improving local bus services
  • Help Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly councils create a plan to bring health and social care services together
  • Enable the council to choose what projects will see millions of pounds of investment
  • Give the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) more input on boosting local skills
  • Make it easier for the LEP to integrate national and local services to help local firms grow

I suspect we’ll see a lot more powers devolved to the Council.

There is no mention of rail services, which are detailed here in Wikipedia, although I suspect these are covered by the Council choosing where to invest.

I suspect though that a lot of improvement in rail services has already been covered. I detailed the improvements for both Devon and Cornwall in The Japanese Are Going To Invade Devon And Cornwall.

I also suspect that as the economy improves in the Far West, whoever is operating the express and sleeper services to London, will upgrade the services to match the demand. The new AT300 trains, that First Great Western have ordered could even be used between Cornwall and Birmingham.

Just as Crossrail is going to give London and the South East a massive kick up the ladder, the electrification and modernisation of the Great Western Main Line is going to do the same for England west of Reading, And of course South Wales!

I see a sunny future for Cornwall!

Which English county is going to be next in the queue for devolution?

July 16, 2015 Posted by | Finance, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

The Japanese Are Going To Invade Devon And Cornwall

This is not a troubling story, but First Great Western have been given an extension to their franchise between London and the West Country that now runs until 2019.

As part of the franchise agreement they are going to purchase 29 new bi-mode AT300 trains from Hitachi. These will be similar to the Class 800 trains, that will be introduced from 2017 on the Great Western Main Line, but with bigger fuel tanks and engines to better cope with the demands of the route. This article in the West Briton explains it all in detail. This is said about the overall service to Devon and Cornwall in a similar article in Modern Railways.

The agreement promises more direct trains into Devon and Cornwall, including two trains per hour to the south west, a doubling of the number of services into and out of Cornwall, an earlier arrival into Plymouth and journey time reductions between Paddington and Penzance of up to 14 minutes.

My only worry about the express service, is will First Great Western still be offering Pullman Dining? I certainly hope so.

The At-300 will have that advantage that as electrification creeps further towards the West, they will be able to run more and more from an electric supply, which should speed up the service.

In tandem with the improvements on the express services, Class 365 and Class 387 electric multiple units will take-over the services between Paddington and the Thames Valley, which will mean that some Class 165, Class 166 and Class 168 diesel multiple units will be available to run local services in the Far West.

Things are looking up for trains in Devon and Cornwall.

But as there are respectively 36, 21 and 15 in each of the Classes 165, 166 and 168, I suspect that there will be a at least a few of these 1990s-built Networker trains to consign a several Pacers to the scrapyard.

So in my view although this is a deal for the West, it will have positive effects all over the UK.

March 23, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

The Eden Project, Geothermal Energy And Fracking

In Iceland last summer, I saw the benefits of geothermal energy, with one of the most spectacular being the amazing Blue Lagoon.

We don’t have any volcanoes in the UK, but in places like Cornwall and London Bridge station, projects are starting to test the feasibility of using heat from deep in the ground.

According to this article in the Glasgow Herald, the Eden Project is investigating geothewrmal energy. This is an extract.

Given the prominence of Friends of the Earth in the shale gas debate it often comes as a nasty surprise to local anti-fracking groups that most green groups do actually support drilling and fracking for deep geothermal projects. Only yesterday, the famous Eden Project in Cornwall announced such a project.

Today though, I read in The Times, that this £35million project is now under threat from an anti-fracking amendment in a bill in Parliament.

I suspect that the problem is if you wrote down all the science known by Members of Parliament, it would just about fit on a small postage stamp.

I wonder what will happen when politicians find out about the ground source heat pump at London Bridge could use fracking techniques, to enable it to be built properly and run efficiently.

February 2, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Good News For Cornwall

Cornwall is not where you would go, if you want to drive there in an hour and it is unlikely you’ll ever be able to get an electric high speed train to the county. I drove back once at a very busy time in my Lotus and reported it here. It took six hours to Cambridge if I cut out the delay due to accidents. Why bother?

But today, it is reported on the BBC, that the government has announced a £146million package of measures to upgrade the rail system in Cornwall, by resignalling the Cornish Main Line from Totnes to Penzance and refurbishing the sleeper trains.

I’ve only taken the train as far as Plymouth a couple of times, but on one memorable trip, the train was several minutes late at Totnes and the driver had recovered most of the time by Plymouth, by showing how an Inter City 125 can perform, if it is needed.

The BBC article doesn’t say if Network Rail are going to raise the speed limits on the line, but surely when the signalling upgrade is complete, the current journey time of five and a half hours could be reduced and the frequency increased to half-hourly, even if they still run the same amazing trains designed in the 1960s. But I travel in these trains and Mark 3 coaches regularly and you rarely hear a complaint about the trains, as they ride so well on their air bag suspension. Read about the construction of the coaches here. It is true to say that they don’t build coaches like that any more.

As it currently takes two hours from Plymouth to Penzance and a couple of years ago, First Great Western did Plymouth to London in under three hours, it would seem to be a possibility, that when the updating is complete, we could see trains from Paddington to Penzance taking under five hours. The tourism business in Cornwall will be licking its lips in anticipation of a service like this.

So will we still be seeing these trains going at full speed to Cornwall in twenty or even thirty years time? With these trains you never say never, as clever engineers always find some way to prolong their lives for another few years.

July 3, 2014 Posted by | News, Transport | , , | 3 Comments

Amsterdam To Cornwall

I was researching where you can fly to out of the airport at the jewel of the Essex Coast; Southend.

It is looking like it is becoming useful.

For instance if you live in The Netherlands, on Saturdays you can leave Schipol at 09:55, change at Southend and get the 13:45 to Newquay in Cornwall, where you arrive at 14:50. The cost on the day I looked was a few pence over £100.

Coming back you leave Newquay at 15:20 and at the moment it looks like you must spend Saturday night in Southend before flying back to The Netherlands in the morning.

Obviously, as easyJet build up flights, coming back should get easier.

if you’re a lady, do remember your white stilettos to trot fast between the flights and of course blend in with the locals.

September 17, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

More New Universities

We’ve just had a whole new set of universities created, as the BBC reports here.

I would have thought we had enough. On the other hand Cornwall gets its first university and other colleges like the Royal Agricultural College are upgraded.

November 29, 2012 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment