The Anonymous Widower

Government Has ‘Double Standards’ For Allowing Drilling In Devon

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in The Telegraph.

This is the first paragraph.

The Government has been accused of “blatant double standards” for allowing drilling in Cornwall that is able to cause stronger tremors than fracking.

This is at the United Downs Geothermal Project in Devon.

It certainly looks like one rule for geothermal energy and another for fracking.

But then in a lecture in London, I heard a Professor of Engineering from Glasgow University, say that fracking was used in the Highlands of Scotland to obtain clean water.

May 5, 2019 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Conclusion

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

The Railway At Dawlish Is In Trouble Again

This report on the Guardian is entitled Waves Batter Railway Line At Dawlish Station As Storm Emma Hits UK. It has a video, which shows the ferocity of the storm.

But at least things seem to be happening to create an alternative route, when Emma and her friends are causing trouble!

This article in the Tavistock Times Gazette is entitled Okehampton Rail News Welcomed Across The Region.

This is the first paragraph.

The news that the Government is creating a plan to bring an all-week, all year train service to Okehampton has been welcomed by MPs — including those for Okehampton and Tavistock — and county councillors from across the area.

The article goes on to say that the Transport Secretary; Chris Grayling, has instructed Great Western Railway to produce a creditable plan for an all-week, all-year train service between Exeter and Okehampton.

It is not a complete railway line to Plymouth and Cornwall avoiding Dawlish, but surely, it will help get rail passengers round a blockage, perhaps by using coaches along the A38 between Bodmin Parkway and Okehampton stations.

I suspect that part of the GWR plan will be to be able to get a trusty short-formation InterCity 125 between Exeter and Okehampton in all but the worst weather.

I suspect too, that GWR and their drivers and other staff, know the limitations of InterCity 125s by now, when it comes to getting services through Dawlish in atrocious weather.

The BBC has this video of the last train going through before the line through Dawlish was closed in 2014.

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exeter To Plymouth Via Okehampton

\since the 2014 Sea Wall Breach at |Dawlish station, Network  Rail have looked at various routes that can bypass Dawlish, should a sea wall breach happen again.

One route is the old Exeter to Plymouth railway of the LSWR, which is best described as partly open.

There is a just over twenty mile gap between Okehampton and Bere Alston stations.

The original route between those two stations included several stations, with the most important being Lydford and Tavistock.

It will be interesting to see if the trains ever run again between Okehampton and Bere Alston stations.

Even if the link was reinstated as a 55 mph line like the Tamar Valley Line, it would surely be valuable as a local line for residents and tourists.

 

 

February 10, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Common Sense Between Exeter And Plymouth

After the failure of the South Devon Sea Wall in 2014 and the cutting of the main line at Dawlish, something had to be done to make sure there was an alternative rail route between Exeter and Plymouth.

In the June 2016 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Cheaper Okehampton Route Proposed, which puts forward the latest thinking. The article starts like this.

The Peninsular Rail Task Force is advocating the reopening of the former Southern Railway route between Exeter and Plymouth via Okehampton as a secondary route rather than as a bypass for the existing line via Dawlish.

The Task Force has produced a 20-year plan for investment in the south west’s rail network. This link can access a draft summary report.

The old Southern Railway route between Exeter and Plymouth is described in Wikipedia as Partly Closed, but with much of the infrastructure intact, although the track has been lifted in places. It sounds that it has been left in a similar state to the Waverley Route and the Varsity Line, after cuts in the 1960s and 1970s. These two routes have been or will be partly or fully reopened.

Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton is certainly in a better state with regard to trains than either the Waverley Route or Varsity Line were before work started.

  • Trains run on the Tarka Line from Exeter to Crediton, before that line goes off to Barnstaple.
  • The Dartmoor Railway also uses the route to take passengers between Exeter and Okehampton.
  • From Okehampton to Tavistock, the track has been lifted.
  • Tavistock is getting a new station and being connected to the Tamar Valley Line at Bere Alston.
  • The Tamar Valley Line then takes passengers to Plymouth.

It may have the air of being assembled from Beeching’s left-overs, but it looks like it would work. Especially, as there should be no problem in the next few years in acquiring high-quality new or refurbished diesel trains for the line.

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.

I also think that once the decision is made to reinstate the line, that it would be a project to build in a series of smaller related projects.

  1. Build the station at Tavistock and connect it to the Tamar Valley Line Line at Bere Alston, to create an hourly Plymouth to Tavistock service.
  2. Upgrade Okehampton station and the Dartmoor Railway to create an hourly Exeter to Okehampton service.
  3. Acquire some new or refurbished diesel trains for the routes and also for other local services in Devon. The trains would need to be weather-proofed for the Dawlish route.
  4. Build new stations at Okehampton East, North Tawton and Bow on the Okehampton to Exeter section.
  5. Reinstate the Tavistock to Okehampton route with stations at Lydford and Sourton Parkway.

Done in small stages, I think that other than getting a railway delivered at an affordable cost on an earlier date, it would have other advantages.

  • Once the first two phases are complete, all but about sixteen miles of the route would be running trains.
  • Hourly services at both ends of the line would give reliable forecasts as to expected passenger usage of the completed line.
  • The hourly services would surely have a Borders Railway-style effect on tourism.
  • Building in small stages could minimise heritage issues, that probably don’t come into play until the Tavistock to Okehampton section is designed and built.

Like the Borders Railway and the Varsity Line, it strikes me that this route from Exeter to Plymouth was wrongly closed in the 1960s and 1970s. But then Harold Wilson, that well-known friend of trains, flew to his cottage on the Scilly Isles.

I believe that this plan is a good one and I’m looking forward to exploring the complete line in the future.

 

 

 

 

June 12, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 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

A Job Well Done

Everybody is breathing a sigh of relief after the reopening of the rail line to Plymouth and Cornwall yesterday. It’s all reported here on the BBC.

The only problem this summer is going to be that with all the publicity, many of those, who want to go to Devon and Cornwall, might decide to use the train. So can the wonderful Inter City 125s cope? They have yet to fail to meet a challenge yet!

There has been talk of opening an inland route, which could go round the North of Dartmoor by way of Okehampton and Tavistock. This is the route of the old London and South Western Railway from Exeter to Plymouth.  The article in Wikipedia includes this.

There are proposals to reopen the line from Tavistock to Bere Alston for a through service to Plymouth. In the wake of widespread disruption caused by damage to the mainline track at Dawlish by coastal storms in February 2014, Network Rail are considering reopening the Tavistock to Okehampton and Exeter section of the line as an alternative to the coastal route.

I suspect there’s a team of exhausted engineers in Network Rail, who have the special engineering envelopes ready with a plan to reinstate this route for an encore after Dawlish. According to Wikipedia, the main viaducts seem to be intact, so it might not be the major job some might think.

As an engineer of sorts, I’d put the opening of this line in a box marked Difficult But Possible With Good Engineering.

Of course, Sod’s Law being what it is, if the old LSWR  line was reinstated, there wouldn’t be any more trouble on the Dawlish line. But it would provide an easy route to get to Dartmoor and the surrounding part of Devon by train.

 

April 5, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Using The Power Of Water

We’ve seen enough rain this winter and it has caused a lot of damage at places like Dawlish. This story from the BBC, shows how to make working safe at Dawlish, the Devon Fire Brigade is using water to bring down an unsafe landslip. Here’s the first bit.

Fire crews are pumping sea water on to the cliff at Dawlish to bring down 350,000 tonnes of potentially unstable rock and soil in a controlled landslip.

Network Rail called in firefighters to prevent a “catastrophic” collapse that could have posed a risk to workers repairing the main Devon railway line.

What I find interesting, is that lots of people are against hydraulic fracking or fracking, which on a grand and more open scale, Network Rail are doing at Dawlish.

 

 

March 15, 2014 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

The High Speed Train Got Through

I’ve just found this  clip of video on the BBC’s web site.

It just shows the sort of conditions that these trains of the 1970s can withstand. It also shows why they will never electrify this line between Exeter and Plymouth.

This other video shows the work going on to repair the line.  Note the wall of shipping containers filled with ballast to give protection to the workings and properties by the railway line. But even these have been breached, as is reported here on ITV.

It’s all extreme engineering at its most way out. Hopefully the engineers will win, but it should lead to better techniques for the next set of problems.

February 14, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Even Brunel’s Railway Couldn’t Cope

The Exeter to Plymouth line is one of the UK’s  most spectacular railway lines.  Or should it be was, as eighty metres of it have been washed away at Dawlish?

This report in the Exeter Express and Echo has some amazing pictures.

Brunel generally got his engineering right and seeing that the line opened in the 1840s and I can’t see any reference to a breakage of this nature before he didn’t do too bad.

But it does show how fierce the seas must have been!

Let’s hope that Network Rail had a plan ready for an emergency, such as happened last night.

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment