The Anonymous Widower

A Few Hours In Okehampton

Today, I took a trip by train to Okehampton and spent a couple of hours in the town.

I took the 10:04 from Paddington and after changing at Exeter St. Davids, I arrived in Okehampton at 13:11

Coming back, I took the 15:24 from Okehampton and arrived in Paddington at 18:24.

So the journeys took about three hours.

These pictures show Okehampton station.

Note.

  1. The train was two Class 150 trains coupled together.
  2. I suspect the platform is long enough to take a GWR Castle train
  3. The bus in the pictures is the 118, of which more later.
  4. It looked like a buffet was under construction.
  5. The new train information displays.

I took the bus down to Okehampton, where I took these pictures, as I walked around.

Note, that the first three pictures show the museum and the cycle works cafe, where I had a coffee and a delicious gluten-free flapjack.

I have a few thoughts on my journey, both now and in the future.

The 118 Bus

The 118 bus runs between Tavistock and Okehampton station.

  • It serves the villages in between.
  • It meets the trains from Exeter and takes them to Okehampton Town Centre.
  • It picks people up from Okehampton Town Centre and takes them to the station just before the trains leave for Exeter.
  • It accepts contactless payment.

It is a well-designed bus route that links passengers with the trains to and from Exeter.

Many other towns could follow Okehampton’s lead.

Walking Between Station And The Town Centre

I could certainly walk down the hill, but one of the locals said that it rather a stiff walk up the hill that takes about fifteen minutes, if you’re up to it. He also felt a taxi would be about a fiver.

Could A Battery Train Work The Service between Exeter And Okehampton Station?

Consider.

  • It is 24.8 miles between Exeter St. David and Okehampton stations.
  • It is a rise of under 200 metres.
  • The Class 150 trains climbed the hill at around 30 mph, but in places it was lower.
  • Hitachi, Stadler and Vivarail are talking about battery-electric trains with a range of fifty miles.
  • I was talking to one of the Great Western Railway staff and he said in the days of steam, the trains used to roll down the hill into Exeter.
  • There is the 18 MW Den Brook Wind Farm close to Okehampton.
  • With regenerative braking rolling down would recharge the batteries.

I suspect, that designing a battery-electric train to climb the hill is possible.

My rough estimate says that a battery of around 500 KWh could be enough.

Are The People Of Devon Going To Use The Train?

I took these pictures as I joined the train back to Exeter.

The people were a mixture of those arriving from Exeter and those returning to Exeter, but most seats were taken on the way back.

I can see Great Western Railway running Castles, like the one in the picture, for services on this route in the Summer, both to attract passengers and to cope with their numbers.

Local Reaction

I talked to several local people and they were all pleased that the service has been reinstated.

The only complaint was that it should have happened sooner.

Is A Day Trip Possible?

Suppose you live in London and your mother or other close relative lives in Okehampton.

Would it be possible to be able to visit them on their birthday for a good lunch?

Consider.

  • At the present time, trains from London, connect to the Okehampton service about every two hours.
  • The first connecting service leaves Paddington at 08:04.
  • Trains take around three hours between Paddington and Okehampton.
  • From probably May 2022, there will be hourly connections to Okehampton.
  • The last London train leaves Exeter at 20:46.

If you wanted to be a real hero, you could always take the Night Riviera back to London, which leaves Exeter at 0100.

I would say that if they planned it properly, a day trip from London to Okehampton by train, is feasible for a special occasion.

Will Great Western Railway Ever Run Direct Trains Between London Paddington And Okehampton?

I doubt this would be a regular service but I do believe that it is technically feasible.

  • Trains would need to reverse at Exeter St. Davids.
  • Trains would probably be limited to five car Class 802 trains.
  • Okehampton station could probably accommodate a five-car Class 802 train.
  • I estimate that the journey time would be a few minutes under three hours.

It should be noted that Paignton gets around three trains per day (tpd) from Paddington.

It might be that if the demand was there, a few trains per day could be run to and from London, by splitting and joining with the Paignton service at Exeter St. Davids.

  • If both services were run by five-car trains, there would be a ten-car service to and from London.
  • It certainly looks that GWR wouldn’t have to spend a great deal to implement the service.
  • The extra capacity of the five-car train might help commuters into Exeter.

It  is likely that this service wouldn’t run until Okehampton Parkway station is opened, which would attract travellers from the West, who would arrive at the station along the A 30 dual-carriageway

I can certainly see a service leaving Okehampton at around seven in the morning and getting into London about ten, paired with a late afternoon/evening train home.

It should be noted, that First Group with their Lumo service between London and Edinburgh, seem to negotiate for paths that create revenue.

But I do wonder, if one of the reasons , that Great Western Railway, Network Rail, Devon County Council, the Department of Transport and the Government were all very much in favour of reopening this route, is that it creates a valid alternative route between London and Plymouth and all places to the West, should the main route via Dawlish be breached again by the sea.

Okehampton station and the future Okehampton Parkway station are both close to the A30 which would allow express coaches to Plymouth and all over West Devon and Cornwall to bypass the trouble.

Hopefully, because the alterative route has been enabled the worst won’t happen.

Conclusion

Exeter and Okehampton is a well-thought out reopening, that will be welcomed in the South West of England.

 

 

November 26, 2021 Posted by | Food, 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

The Dartmoor Line Is Back: ‘I Can’t Imagine Why Anyone Would Want To Arrive On The Moor Any Other Way’

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

The article is in the travel section and describes what you might do if you took a train to Okehampton.

I wondered how many of the other Saturday papers and web sites have got articles about Okehampton and the railway.

So I searched and found these.

  • The Guardian talks of Devon joy and a financial boost for the town.
  • ITV says it will boost tourism and give access to education and work for local people.
  • Devon Live also talks of joy and a feat of engineering.
  • The Tavistock Times Gazette talks of a new bus service between Tavistock and the railway at Okehampton.

It’s a much more optimistic situation compared to that portrayed in this article in The Times from 2011, which was entitled Okehampton Workers Living On Food Parcels After Business Closures.

November 20, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Beeching Reversal Fund Bids

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in the May 2020 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Bids have been submitted to Government for a share of the £500 million ‘Restoring your railway’ fund launched by the Department for Transport in January. The fund is to be used to support proposals to reinstate axed local services, to accelerate schemes already being considered for restoration and also to promote new and restored stations.

Some of the bids are detailed.

Okehampton And Tavistock

If you were deciding what lines shouldn’t have been closed by British Rail in the 1960s, by hindsight, the Exeter to Plymouth railway of the LSWR, would be a railway that you wouldn’t close.

  • The Northern route  would be a valuable diversion, when the sea and the weather decide to attack Dawlish again. as they did in 2014.
  • When COVID-19 is over, there will be more people going to Devon and Cornwall. A second rail route would be invaluable to get traffic off the roads.
  • Attitudes are changing about zero-carbon travel and this will also nudge passengers towards rail.
  • Four tracks between Exeter and Plymouth would allow more freight services to take trucks off the road.
  • There may be new developments along the Northern route.
  • It may be even be possible to electrify the Northern route.

At least, British Rail left the viaducts and bridges intact.

The Modern Railways article says this.

In the West Country, a new Northern Route Working Group has submitted a bid to the fund to develop a Strategic Outline Business Case for reopeing the former London and South Western Railway Main Line between Exeter and Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock. The proposal is backed by four local MPs and the working group of industry personnel.

These points are also made.

  • The reopening is crucial to the resilience of the network.
  • Reopening is complimentary to the ongoing work at Dawlish.
  • Devon County Council is leading plans to reopen the 5.5 miles between Bere Alston and Tavistock.
  • Devon County Council is pushing for a daily service between Exeter and Okehampton.
  • The previous two developments, would leave the 16 miles between Tavistock and Okehampton to be restored.
  • Much of the route is intact and structures survive, but some track has been sold off.
  • The route will be useful during closure of the coastal route through Dawlish.
  • Journey times might be only six minutes longer.
  • It might be an easier route for freight trains.

As I said earlier, the proposers of the scheme think electrification could be possible.

Stratford And Honeybourne

The Modern Railways article says this.

A bid has been submitted for £75,000 to carry out an Economic Impact Assessment regarding reopening of the Stratford-upon-Avon to Honeybourne route.

These points are also made.

Nothing is said about whether the route will be single or double track or what services will be run on the line.

There’s more on the Shakespeare Line web site.

This is said about train services.

  • A reopened railway could provide the ability to operate orbital train services in both directions between Birmingham-Stratford-Evesham-Worcester-Birmingham providing connections for South Wales and South West at the new Worcestershire Parkway station.
  • The reopened line would provide the ability to operate direct train services with a 12 mile shorter route between Stratford upon Avon, the Cotswolds, Oxford, Reading, Heathrow Airport and London Paddington.

I also think, I’ve read that the line could be used by freight services and heritage services on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, which could link Birmingham and Cheltenham.

It does appear to be a rail link with potential.

Rawtenstall Line

The Modern Railways article says this.

Meanwhile, Rossendale Council has submitted an application to the fund seeking to propose reinstatement of passenger services on the Rawstenstall Line, now part of the East Lancashire Railway.

A study published in 2018 determined that reinstating services along the ELR and then joining the Manchester to Rochdale Line would be feasible.

These points are also made.

  • Rossendale is the only council in Lancashire without a rail link.
  • 60 % of residents leave the borough each day for work.

Tram-trains have also been proposed for this route, as I wrote about in Could A Class 399 Tram-Train With Batteries Go Between Manchester Victoria And Rochdale/Bury Bolton Street/Rawtenstall Stations?

Conclusion

This is the closing paragraph of the article.

In addition to those mentioned, it is likely that other bids will have been submitted to the fund.

It certainly looks like the money in the fund, will be bid for, by worthwhile projects.

 

April 24, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 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/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