The Anonymous Widower

Success For The Dartmoor Line

This article on Railnews is entitled Railway Braces For Weekend Changes.

The article flags up that rail timetables will change to the summer timetable and uses the Dartmoor Line where services will go hourly, as an example.

The article says this about the changes to the Dartmoor Line and the success of the restored service to Okehampton station.

One of the many changes includes the doubling of service frequencies on the recently-reopened Dartmoor Line between Exeter and Okehampton, where scheduled passenger trains were restored last November. From Sunday trains will be running every hour, and rail minister Wendy Morton visited Okehampton yesterday to celebrate the improvements.

The reopening is part of the government’s promise to ‘Restore your railways’, and the Okehampton line is the first practical example of this in action. The line was upgraded for £10 million less than the £40.5 million budgeted, and Network Rail said the route has proved ‘hugely popular’, because passenger numbers have been more than double than predicted, reaching an average of over 2,500 a week during the first 20 weeks. The number of passengers at nearby Crediton, where the Dartmoor Line joins services on the Tarka Line from Barnstaple, is also 39 per cent higher than it was before the pandemic.

I have some thoughts.

Reopening Of The Line

Network Rail can build projects on time and on budget, if they get the project management right.

Passenger Numbers Between Exeter And Okehampton

If 2,500 passengers per week can use the line in the winter, when there is only one train per two hours (tp2h), how many passengers will use the train, when there is an hourly service?

2,500 passengers per week, throughout the year would be 125,000 passengers per year and as surely the summer will be busier, I don’t think it will be an unreasonable figure.

Okehampton station car park appears to have around 300 spaces, so at 2,500 passengers per week, there might be a not too distant day, when it fills up.

Passenger Numbers At Crediton

I am not surprised that traffic at Crediton is up by 39 percent.

Consider.

  • Pre-pandemic, Crediton station had one train per hour (tph) to and from Exeter.
  • Post-pandemic, Crediton has three trains per two hours to and from Exeter.

It looks like the train frequency has been increased by 50 % and the number of passengers has increased by 39 %.

That surely is not surprising and passenger numbers might increase further when one tph are running between Exeter and both Barnstaple and Okehampton, if there are more possible passengers to attract.

Car parking at Crediton station may also be a problem, as there appears to be less than a hundred spaces.

Okehampton Parkway Station

Okehampton Parkway Station is likely to be built to the East of Okehampton. Wikipedia says this about the station.

Okehampton Parkway is a proposed railway station in Okehampton on the Dartmoor Line. The station would be part of the Devon Metro and has been described as a priority station. The station is to be sited at the A30 junction at Stockley Hamlet and would be sited at the Business Park at Okehampton as well as serving a further 900 homes close to the site.

Wikipedia, also says that Devon County Council has bought the site.

This must be one of the best sites to build a parkway station in the UK.

  • It’s on the dual-carriageway A 30, between London and Cornwall.
  • The good people of Devon seem to like to use trains given the passenger numbers at Okehampton and Crediton stations.
  • Housing is being built nearby.

This Google Map shows Devon and Cornwall to the West of Okehampton and Barnstaple.

Note.

  1. Okehampton with two stations is in the South-East corner of the map.
  2. Barnstaple, which has a station, is in the North-East corner of the map.
  3. There are well-visited holiday resorts all along the cost including Ilfracombe, Westward Ho! and Bude.

It strikes me that if Devon put together a network of zero-carbon buses, it would be well-used and they could sell the area for zero-carbon holidays.

Rolling Stock

Currently, the Okehampton and Barnstaple services are operated by Class 150 trains.

These are definitely not good enough, due to their age and diesel power.

The distances of the two services are as follows.

  • Exeter and Barnstable – 39.5 miles
  • Exeter and Okehampton – 25.5 miles

I feel that these routes could be handled by a battery-electric train like the Hitachi Regional Battery Train, which is shown in this Hitachi infographic.

Note.

  1. For these routes, the trains would probably be based on four-car Class 385 trains, with a top speed of 90 mph.
  2. Charging would be in Exeter.
  3. Charging may not be needed at Barnstaple and Okehampton as the routes are downhill.

If battery-electric trains can’t handle the routes, I’m sure hydrogen-powered trains could.

May 13, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 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

Work Begins On Okehampton Parkway Station

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

These are the first two paragraphs.

Following confirmation of government funding from the ‘Restoring Your Railway ideas’ fund, work has started on the Okehampton Parkway railway station that will serve the east of the town when the Dartmoor Line reopens.

Services are expected to restart later this year on the 14-mile stretch of railway for the first time in almost 50 years, providing a regular, daily passenger rail service between Okehampton and Exeter.

Okehampton Parkway station will be a completely new station for the Dartmoor Line.

This Google Map shows the probable location of the station.

The Wikipedia entry for the station, says this about its location.

The station is to be sited at the A30 junction at Stockley Hamlet and would be sited at the Business Park at Okehampton as well as serving a further 900 homes close to the site.

Stockey Hamlet is in the North-East corner of the map with the Dartmoor Line running along its Western side. Wikipedia also says this about the station design.

In April 2018, two preferred options for a new station which included an option for a double-sided platform which included a through platform and a bay platform. Another is for a platform single-sided platform on the south side of the railway with staggered faces. Exeter-bound trains would use the north through platform and the Dartmoor Railway would use the bay platform.

But as the track is only single-track and Devon has several single-platform stations, I will be surprised if the station has more than a single platform initially.

May 6, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 4 Comments