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

Note.

  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.

Note.

  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 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Is The Okehampton Effect Starting?

This article on the Tavistock Times Gazette is entitled Hop Aboard The 118 For Town And Village Connection To Rail.

These are the first three paragraphs.

County council chiefs have confirmed they have launched a new bus service to link residents in Tavistock to Okehampton’s restored railway line.

From Saturday, Service 118 will link Tavistock to Okehampton, via Mary Tavy and Lydford, to provide an integrated connection to the rail services between Okehampton and Exeter during the day. The service is part of a bigger project to improve public transport in Devon.

The move comes as Devon County Council pushes ahead with plans to get trains rolling again in Tavistock — but in the opposite direction.

Note.

  1. Tavistock has almost twice the population of Okehampton.
  2. Okehampton and Tavistock are about sixteen miles apart.
  3. Buses will take about forty minutes.
  4. The railway from Tavistock could eventually go to Plymouth via the existing Bere Alston station and the Tamar Valley Line.

This bus route will complete a circular route between Exeter and Plymouth around Dartmoor.

Devon does seem to be getting itself ready for the next phase of rail development in the county.

But does Devon as the birthplace of those great mariners, Chichester, Drake, Gilbert, Grenville and Raleigh, follow in their footsteps and plan things well and get it done?

My maternal grandmother was born in Dalston of two Devonian parents.

Just before the Second World War my mother asked her if she was prepared for the inevitable war.

My grandmother’s reply was as follows.

I got caught out in the First War, so I’ve got a hundredweight of sugar and a hundredweight of jam in the cellar.

Was that her Devonian genes shining through?

Devon is certainly planning for the future at Okehampton.

  • There are plans for an Okehampton Parkway station, where the railway crosses the A30, which I wrote about in Work Begins On Okehampton Parkway Station.
  • There is this new bus route.
  • Will there be more housing in Okehampton?
  • There will be developments linked to tourism.

I believe the Okehampton Effect is starting.

 

November 20, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reinstating The Line Between Tavistock And Bere Alston And Providing New Services To And From Plymouth

On October 27th this Beeching Reversal Project was given £50,000 to build a case for reinstating.

This project finally seems to be getting going.

The complete reinstatement between Exeter and Plymouth seems to be developing into a three-phase project.

  • Phase 1 – Exeter and Okehampton – This is now complete and trains are test running, with services due to start on the 20th November.
  • Phase 2 – Tavistock And Bere Alston – This section is being planned and if approved could be the next section to be opened.
  • Phase 3 – Tavistock and Okehampton – This would complete the reinstatement of the route between Exeter and Plymouth.

These are my thoughts.

The Completion Of Phase 1

Trains are now test running to between Exeter and Okehampton.

The full service starts on the 20th November.

  • On that day, there will be eight trains per day (tpd) in both directions.
  • Trains will leave Exeter at 06:32, 08:41, 10:36, 12:37, 14:38, 16:36, 18:48 and 21:00.
  • Trains will leave Okehampton at 07:39, 09:45, 11:39, 13:39, 15:39, 17:46, 19:51 and 22:34.
  • Trains are times to take around forty minutes for each trip.
  • The service is pathed as a Class 150/153/155/156 DMU
  • The service is planned for a maximum speed of 75 mph.

Note.

  1. This is approximately one train per two hours (tp2h).
  2. It looks like the service could be worked by a single train shuttling all day.

The Wikipedia entry for Okehampton station says this.

The service will increase to hourly towards the end of 2022.

It has been a very smooth restoration of service.

Okehampton Parkway Station

Okehampton Parkway station is to be built to the East of Okehampton at Stockley Hamlet.

It looks like it could be a very useful Park-and-Ride station for Exeter and Okehampton.

Could The Okehampton Stations Be Used To By-Pass Dawlish?

In 2014, the sea breached the sea wall and the railway at Dawlish, on the Great Western Main Line between Exeter and Plymouth. Trains couldn’t run past Exeter.

I very much feel that with global warming and seemingly increasingly bad weather that we can’t say that a breach won’t happen again.

Could it be possible to use the one of the Okehampton stations, as a terminal for a Rail Replacement service that connected to Plymouth and Cornwall?

The Gap Between Okehampton And Bere Alston

This Google Map shows the gap between Okehampton and Bere Alston stations.

Note.

  1. Okehampton is at the top of the map between the three green rectangles which mark the main roads.
  2. Bere Alston is in the South-West corner of the map.
  3. Tavistock is North of Bere Alston.
  4. The three places are connected by the A 386 road.

Is there a bus between Okehampton and Bere Alston, that serves Tavistock and the major villages?

Phase 2 – Tavistock And Bere Alston

This Google Map shows between Tavistock and Beer Alston station.

Note.

  1. Tavistock is in the North-East corner of the map.
  2. Bere Alston  is in the South-West corner of the map.
  3. I estimate that about six miles of new track will have to be laid.

This Google Map shows Bere Alston station, which is to the North-West of the village.

Note.

  1. Bere Alston station is on the Tamar Valley Line.
  2. The Tamar Valley Line is all single-track.
  3. Trains to and from Gunnislake station use the Northbound track at the junction to the West of the station.
  4. Trains to and from Plymouth use the Southbound track at the junction to the West of the station.
  5. Trains between Gunnislake and Plymouth reverse at Bere Alston station.

It would appear that the route to Tavistock continued to the East.

This Google Map clearly shows the route of the disused railway as it runs North-East from Bere Alston station.

Note.

Bere Alston station is the South-West corner of the map.

The dark green line of the railway runs to the North-East corner of the map.

As all the railways in the area seem to have been single-track, I would suspect that any rebuilt railway on this route will be single track.

I have followed the dark green line through to Tavistock which is shown in this Google Map.

As the Department of Transport are prepared to finance a study for reinstatement of the route, I would suspect that there is a feasible route between Bere Alston and Tavistock.

  • There would appear to be no bridges or viaducts between Bere Alston and the outskirts of Tavistock.
  • Before closure, there no stations between Bere Alston and Tavistock North stations.
  • Bere Alston station would need to be rebuilt.

The Wikipedia entry for Tavistock North station, says this about the condition of the line.

The station building has been restored and converted into three self-catering cottages. The stationmaster’s house is being restored as a private dwelling, while the goods yard, now known as Kilworthy Park, houses the offices of West Devon Borough Council. The track bed for about one mile (1.6 km) south of Tavistock North station is open to the public as a footpath and nature reserve, and it is possible to walk across the viaducts that overlook the town.

The rest of the track bed south of Tavistock is almost intact to Bere Alston, where it joins the present-day Tamar Valley Line. There has been discussion regarding the re-opening of a rail link for a number of years. Engineering assessment has shown that the track bed, and structures such as bridges and tunnels, are in sound condition.

I can foresee some problems, in what might not be one of the most challenging of projects.

  • Claiming back the railway from the walkers and cyclists.
  • The ownership of the stationmaster’s house.

Unlike Scotland, England didn’t make sure that rail routes could be converted back to railways if needed.

My project management knowledge leads me to agree with what appears to be a decision to do this part of the route next.

Phase 3 – Okehampton And Tavistock

The title of this project as given in the Railway Gazette article is as follows.

Reinstating The Line Between Tavistock And Bere Alston And Providing New Services To And From Plymouth

If you read this literally, it doesn’t mention anything about connecting to Okehampton and Exeter.

  • Looking at maps and reading up on the line, it does appear that the route may be more challenging.
  • The route also contains the Meldon Viaduct, which is a scheduled monument.

Until a viable plan is developed, it might be better and more affordable to run zero-carbon buses between Tavistock and Okehampton.

 

October 30, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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/Travel | , , , , | 1 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/Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

The Tarka Line

The Tarka Line is a branch line in Devon that runs up from Exeter St. Davids station to Barnstable station.

I went to Barnstaple in the rush hour in a packed three car train, consisting of a Class 150 and a Class 153 train working together, asw a three-car unit.

The lady next to me, said she lived in Bideford, so she had a drive from Barnstaple.

Coming back down, the train was almost empty, so I took a pit stop at Yeoford station in a local pub called the Mare and Foal, before catching the next train back to Exeter. That train was a refurbished Class 150 train, that I wrote about in What Train Is This?

These pictures show Yeoford station to give a flavour of the line.

The Link To The Dartmoor Railway

This Google Map shows the section of the Tarka Line North from Yeoford station, which is in the South East corner.

At the village of Penstone, the Dartmoor Railway breaks off to the West to go to Okehampton station.

Under Future in the Wikipedia entry for Yeoford station, this is said.

The Dartmoor Railway plan to reopen the disused platform at the station in order to create an interchange with the Tarka Line (and thus the national network). Through running from Yeoford to Okehampton was intended to commence in 2009 but this was delayed pending the finalising of transfer arrangements with Network Rail. Accordingly, the “Sunday Rover” service run by Great Western Railway again operated on Sundays throughout the summer of 2009, although not calling here. Though the GWR summer trains have continued to operate since (running again each summer from 2013-16), agreement over the use of Yeoford as an interchange has still not been reached and it is unclear as to when (or if) this will be possible.

If this does happen, it could be the first step in opening up a second East-West route across Devon.

This page on the Dartmoor Railway web site is entitled GWR Sunday service to Okehampton and gives details of the GWR Summer Sunday service.

Reopening the old LSWR route across Devon will be driven by the following.

  • New housing developments in the area.
  • Tourism
  • Creating employment.
  • Bringing quarried materials to construction distribution depots and sites by rail.
  • Creating a second route to Cornwall in case of disruption at Dawlish.

Murphy’s Law will of course apply and once the route is open, there will be no more disruption at Dawlish.

If the route is built, it will allow local trains to do a circular route from Exeter calling at the following stations in large towns.

  • Crediton
  • Okehampton
  • Tavistock
  • Plymouth
  • Newton Abbott

The route would give connections to branches to Axminster, Barnstaple, Exmouth, Gunnislake, Paignton and Tiverton.

Onward To Bideford

The Wikipedia entry for Bideford station says this.

Recently, the station was included on the ATOC Connecting Communities report, that recommends closed lines and stations that should have a railway station. The report suggests the reopening of the Barnstaple – Bideford railway line.

This Google Map shows the centre of the town of Bideford.

The old station was located at the site of the Bideford Railway Heritage Centre at the Eastern end of the Old Bideford Bridge.

So could the railway line between Barnstaple and Bideford be reopened?

This Google Map shows the other end of the line at Barnstaple.

The old railway line is now used as the South West Coastal Path.

I think with traditional technology, it will be unlikely that the railway is rebuilt, as walkers and others will rightly object to noisy diesel trains or electrification of any kind, disturbing the countryside.

But as I wrote in No-Frills Mini Trains Offer Route To Reopening Lines That Beeching Shut, engineers won’t give up in providing solutions for difficult to serve places.

I believe that within ten years, a silent battery-powered train, will be ghosting its way along a single track railway between Barstaple and Bideford, that is shared with walkers and cyclists.

Remember engineering is the science of the possible, whereas politics is all impossible dreams.

 

 

April 5, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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/Travel | , , , , | 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/Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment