The Anonymous Widower

No Trains Out Of Cornwall Until The Weekend After Lorry Hits Plymouth Bridge

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

A few points from the article.

  • It was a Tesco truck.
  • It took twenty-four hours to extract.
  • The accident happened on Ashford Hill in Plymouth.

I found the bridge on Google Maps.

Note.

  1. The railway and the bridge are at the top of the map.
  2. My eyesight isn’t good, but I can see the warning signs on the bridge.
  3. There is a TescoExpress in the bottom right corner of the map.

It can’t be a lot more than a hundred metres between the bridge and the TescoExpress.

To make matters worse for the train operators, the accident site is to the East of Plymouth station, which means trains can’t run to Plymouth.

Will GWR Use Okehampton?

Network Rail have already re-laid the track to Okehampton, prior to opening an hourly service between Exeter and Okehampton later this year.

Okehampton station is close to the A30 and I suspect that GWR would have little difficulty running a five-car Hitachi train to Okehampton from London with a reverse at Exeter. At Okehampton, they could use coaches to serve Cornwall by running to Bodmin Parkway.

If I was the CEO of GWR, I’d see if it could be arranged, as what good publicity they’d get for the new Okehampton service.

August 31, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

On Track – Network Rail Reaches Key Milestone On Dartmoor Line

The title of this post, is the same as that of this news release on the Network Rail web site.

These are the first two paragraphs.

The reopening of the railway line between Okehampton and Exeter is one step closer after Network Rail finished relaying the new track and sleepers this week.

Following the confirmation of government funding in March, engineers started immediately and have worked tirelessly upgrading this 14 mile stretch of track between Okehampton and Coleford Junction, where the Dartmoor Line joins the existing railway line to Exeter.

Perhaps the most significant fact about this project, is the speed with which work has progressed since it started.

So far it appears the following has been done.

  • 11 miles of track has been laid.
  • 24.000 new concrete sleepers have been installed.
  • 29,000 tonnes of ballast has been installed.

Much of the work was done by a clever machine which is shown in a video.

I do wonder if this machine, when it finishes in Devon will be sent all the way to Newcastle to relay the Northumberland Line in the same manner.

May 16, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Dartmoor Rail Service Reopens This Year In Reversal Of Beeching Cuts

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

A largely redundant Victorian railway line will be reopened this year as part of plans to resurrect routes closed in the infamous Beeching cuts.

This line was always likely to be one of the first to reopen, as there is a terminal station at Okehampton, with a bus interchange and other facilities, that has been hosting a service from Exeter on summer Sundays for some years.

The BBC have a reporter there this morning and the station looks in better condition, than some I could name.

This paragraph from The Times describes works to be done.

Network Rail said engineers would start a range of works including improvements to drainage, fencing by the trackside, rebuilding embankments and upgrading Okehampton station. Some 11 miles of track will also be replaced. It is envisaged that test trains will run later this year before it fully reopens to passengers.

Some of the BBC footage, showed a great pile of new track by the station, so it looks like Network Rail are starting to relay the track.

It is hoped to run a one train per two hour service by the end of the year, which could go hourly next year.

In Okehampton Railway Return ‘Clear Reality’ After £40m Commitment In Budget, I said more about this reopening project and I speculated that both Okehampton and Barnstaple services will terminate at Exmouth Junction, as the Barnstaple services do now.

Barnstaple has roughly an hourly service from Exeter and to run two hourly services between Exeter and Coleford Junction, where the two routes divide, may need extra work to be done, so that trains can pass each other at convenient points.

This extra work probably explains, why the service won’t be hourly until next year.

I do wonder, if this reopening also enables other improvement and possibilities.

Meldon Quarry

Meldon Quarry used to be an important source of track ballast for British Rail and it is situated a few miles past Okehampton.

This Google Map shows Meldon Quarry and Okehampton.

Note.

  1. Meldon Quarry is in the South-West corner of the map marked by a red marker.
  2. To its West is Meldon Viaduct, which is part of the old railway line between Okehampton and Plymouth, which is now a walking and cycling route.
  3. The town of Okehampton is in the North-East of the map.
  4. Okehampton station is in the South-East of the town close to the A 30.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find, that Network Rail are upgrading the line to Okehampton, so that if they need to obtain quality track ballast from Meldon Quarry, it would not require upgrades to the track East of Okehampton.

Okehampton Camp

Note Okehampton Camp to the South of Okehampton.

Many Army bases like this one need heavy vehicles to be transported to and from the base.

Have Network Rail future-proofed the design of the route to Okehampton, so that heavy vehicles can be transported to the area?

A Railhead For North Devon And North Cornwall

There are two main roads between Exeter and Cornwall.

  • The A30 goes to the North of Dartmoor and via Launceston
  • The A38 goes to the South of Dartmoor and then via Plymouth

In the past, I’ve always driven to and from Cornwall via the Northern route and I describe one journey in Dancing with Hippopotami.

This Google Map shows the A30, as it passes Okehampton.

Note that although the station and the A30 are physically close, there would be a few minutes to drive between the two.

But I do feel there is scope to create an appropriate transport interchange between.

  • Trains to and from Exeter.
  • Buses and coaches to North Cornwall and North Devon.
  • Cars on the A30.

It could effectively become a parkway station.

An Alternative Route In Case Of Trouble Or Engineering Works At Dawlish

Bodmin Parkway and Okehampton stations are about 43 miles apart and I suspect a coach could do the journey in around fifty minutes.

Would this be a sensible alternative route in times of disruption?

  • It is dual-carriageway all the way.
  • Okehampton station can certainly handle a five-car Class 802 train and could probably be improved to handle a nine- or even ten-car train.
  • Trains from London could get to Okehampton with a reverse at Exeter St. Davids.

I don’t know the area well, but it must be a possibility.

Could Okehampton Have A London Service?

As I said in the previous section, it looks like Okehampton station can handle five-, nine- and possibly ten-car Class 802 trains and there are many pictures of Great Western Railway’s InterCity 125s or HSTs at Okehampton station in years gone by.

I think it would be feasible to run a small number of services between Okehampton and London.

  • The service would have to reverse at Exeter St. Davids station.
  • As one service every two hours runs between London Paddington and Exeter St. Davids stations, a service to Okehampton could be run as an extension to the current Exeter service.
  • It could also stop at Crediton station.

There must also be the possibility of running a pair of five car trains from Paddington, that split at Exeter St. Davids, with one service going to Okehampton and the second one to Paignton.

  • Exeter St. Davids and Paignton are 26.3 miles apart and a fast train takes 34 minutes
  • Exeter St. Davids and Okehampton are probably a slightly shorter distance.

I suspect that a sensible  timetable could be devised.

The specification of the Hitachi InterCity Tri-Mode Train is given in this Hitachi infographic.

Note.

  1. It is intended to run these trains to Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance.
  2. The range of the train on batteries is not given.

These trains could use a mixture of diesel and battery power to travel to and from Okehampton and Paignton.

But I also believe that as Hitachi develop this train and batteries have an increased capacity, that it will be possible for the trin to do a round trip from Exeter to  Okehampton or Paignton without using diesel, provided the train can leave Exeter with a full battery.

According to Hitachi’s infographic, the train will take 10-15 minutes to fully charge at a station like Exeter. But that would add up to fifteen minutes to the timetable.

I feel if the roughly thirty-five miles of track between Exeter St Davids station  and Cogload Junction, which is to the North of Taunton, were to be electrified, then this would mean.

  • Trains would be fully charged for their excursions round Devon.
  • Trains would be fully charged for onward travel to Plymouth and Penzance.
  • Trains going to London would leave Taunton with full batteries to help them on their way on the ninety mile stretch without electrification to Newbury.
  • Trains going between Exeter and Bristol could take advantage of the electrification.

Eventually, this section of electrification might even help to enable trains to run between London and Exeter without using diesel.

As the railway runs alongside the M5 Motorway, this might ease planning for the electrification.

The gap in the electrification between Cogload Junction and Newbury could be difficult to bridge without using diesel.

  • Cogload Junction and Newbury are 85 miles apart.
  • I’ve never seen so many bridges over a railway.
  • I actually counted twenty-one bridges on the twenty miles between Westbury and Pewsey stations.
  • I suspect some will object, if some of the bridges are replaced with modern ones.
  • There would be a lot of disruption and expense, if a large proportion of these bridges were to be replaced.
  • Currently, Great Western Railway run expresses to Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance via Taunton and Newbury.

I think, there needs to be some very radical thinking and low cunning to solve the problem.

  • Battery technology and the best efforts of engineers from Hitachi and Hyperdrive Innovation may stretch the battery range sufficiently.
  • It might be possible to extend the electrification at the Newbury end to perhaps Bedwyn, as there are only a few bridges. This would shorten the distance by up to thirteen miles.
  • It may also be possible to extend the electrification at the Taunton end.
  • I would expect some bridges could be dealt with using discontinuous electrification techniques.

But I believe that full electrification between Newbury and Cogload junction might be an extremely challenging project.

There must also be the possibility of using lightweight overhead line structures, where challenges are made about inappropriate overhead gantries.

There is also a video.

Note.

  1. Electrification doesn’t have to be ugly and out-of-character with the surroundings.
  2. The main overhead structure of this gantry is laminated wood.

These gantries would surely be very suitable for the following.

  • Electrifying secondary routes and especially scenic ones.
  • Electrifying single lines and sidings.
  • Electrifying a bay platform, so that battery electric trains could be charged.

Innovative design could be one of the keys to more electrification.

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 19, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Okehampton Railway Return ‘Clear Reality’ After £40m Commitment In Budget

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Okehampton Times.

This is the introductory paragraph.

The return of a regular passenger rail service to Okehampton is now a clear reality after £40m of funding to reinstate services was included in the Budget.

I am not surprised about this planned reopening, as much of the infrastructure is ready.

Okehampton already has a station, which is shown in this Google Map.

It looks as if there are tourist facilities at the station, where you can stay the night and hire bicycles.

The Dartmoor Railway connects the station to the Tarka Line at Coleford Junction.

  • The railway appears to be single track.
  • There is a single-platform station at Sampford Courtenay.
  • A Great Western Railway passenger service connects St. James Park and Okehampton stations on Summer Sundays.
  • This service also calls at Exeter Central, Exeter St. Davids and Ctediton stations.

In a section called Future Options for the Wikipedia entry for Okehampton station, finishes with this sentence.

Work started by Network Rail in 2020 on relaying and refurbishing the track between Coleford Junction and Okehampton with a plan to reopen the line to passengers during 2021.

It looks like a rail service could be made permanent and seven days per week, for an affordable budget.

The trains and those on the Tarka Line to Barnstaple are actually turned in a reversing siding at Exmouth Junction, which is shown in this Google Map.

Note.

  1. St. James Park station is to the West.
  2. Honiton station is to the East.
  3. The Avocet Line to Exmouth station goes South East at the bottom of the map.

I suspect that if more trains were reversed at Exmouth Junction, some work on track and signalling might be needed to be done.

This paragraph is taken from this article on the Moorlander, which is entitled Okehampton To Exeter Railway Line Secures More Than £40m Funding.

As The Moorlander has previously reported, the news means that Okehampton will become a ‘railhead’ for the hinterland and benefit three main markets; those wishing to visit the heritage station and Dartmoor, local people from Okehampton travelling to Exeter for work, leisure and education plus potential passengers wanting to connect with the train from West Devon, parts of Torridge and North Cornwall.

That seems all very sensible to me.

Could It Be Trialled As A Pop-Up Metro?

Could it be, that once the line is approved for opening, a service is run for a few months to test out, whether it would be financially viable?

It would be the classic test of the Pop-Up Metro concept, that has been proposed by Adrian Shooter of Vivarail, that I wrote about in Vivarail’s Plans For Zero-Emission Trains.

To be zero-emission, there would need to be one of Vivarail’s Fast Charge systems at Exmouth Junction, which could also charge trains for Barnstaple.

What would zero-emission battery trains serving Barnstaple and Okehampton so for passenger numbers?

Train operators discount the positive effects, these trains have on passengers.

Did Greater Anglia for instance, ever do any market research after the successful trial of the Class 379 BEMU train at Manningtree five years ago? I suspect not!

I estimate that to run the following pair of hourly services would take three trains for each.

  • St. James Park and Barnstaple via Exeter Central, Exeter St. Davids and Crediton.
  • St. James Park and Okehampton via Exeter Central, Exeter St. Davids and Crediton.

Two extra trains for a hot spare and one in maintenance would typically be added, to give a requirement of eight trains. As Great Western Railway already run the hourly service to Barnstaple, they would probably need another three trains for the Okehampton service.

I think there are two very sensible and affordable philosophies.

Refurbished Class 150 Trains

These pictures show a refurbishment of one of Great Western Railway‘s Class 150 trains.

 

Note.

  1. It is one of the finest train refurbishments, I have ever seen.
  2. As I rode one that had been to Barnstable, they can certainly handle the route.
  3. Great Western Railway have twenty of these trains.

What’s wrong with a fleet of these trains?

Vivarail Class 230 Trains

Battery-electric or diesel-electric versions of these Class 230 trains would be a possibility.

Note.

  1. I am not sure, if they could manage the climb to Barnstaple, but as they have have so many different power options, I suspect something is possible.
  2. If they are battery-electric, there could be a Fast Charge system at Exmouth Junction, where the trains turn back.
  3. Charging may also be needed at Barnstaple and Okehampton to nudge the trains down the hill.

Suppose the various improvements to track, signals and stations and providing charging cost half of the £40 million, that would leave £20 million to pay for the trains. In a cost comparison from October 2015, it is stated that lease costs of Class 230 trains are £7000 per car per month.

So if we call that £10000 to allow for inflation and the pandemic, that means that 8 x three-car trains will cost £2.88 million per year. There will obviously be maintenance and fuel and electricity costs to add. Let’s make the total £4 million per year.

So that would mean, that after spending £20 million on getting the infrastructure ready, the route could be run for five years as a trial.

Conclusion

Consider.

  • I feel that this line has been proposed for reopening, as it looks like there could be a good return on the investment.
  • The biggest problem would be finding three trains to run the service.
  • I suspect, it could also be implemented in a short period of time and perhaps open for Summer 2021.

This train service could be a prototype for many others in the UK.

 

 

March 6, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 6 Comments