One route is the old Exeter to Plymouth railway of the LSWR, which is best described as partly open.
- Exeter St. David station to Crediton station using the Tarka Line.
- Crediton station to Okehampton station using the Dartmoor Railway.
- Bere Alston station from Plymouth station using the Tamar Valley Line.
There is a just over twenty mile gap between Okehampton and Bere Alston stations.
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.
I was listening to Wake Up To Money on BBC Radio 5 this morning and they interviewed someone from a company called Artemis Optical.
On their home page, their mission statement is.
Improve Vision: to be the Photonics industry’s most advanced manufacturer.
Their about page, says this.
Owned equally by the executive directors, Artemis, a world renowned company
employs 30+ talented staff, with an enviable history of 60 years in the design and
application of high precision, technically differentiated optical thin film coatings.
It sounds so very familiar.
In the interview, their spokesman disclosed that they banked with Lloyds, as did Metier!
And where did our bank manager come from? Plymouth, where Artemis; the company is based.
Very different industries, but same philosophy, same ambition, same bank and same name!
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.
- 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.
- Upgrade Okehampton station and the Dartmoor Railway to create an hourly Exeter to Okehampton service.
- 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.
- Build new stations at Okehampton East, North Tawton and Bow on the Okehampton to Exeter section.
- 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.
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.
Plymouth has banned the adverts for payday lenders from billboards and bus shelters, as is reported here in the Independent.
Perhaps they could use the space saved on bus shelters to provide user-friendly maps and bus information, to help visitors to the city.
This story started in the Times yesterday and was repeated here in the Telegraph, which throws Grimsby into the mix.
So you can take your pick from any of a number of places!
The choice is yours!
As I walked out of Plymouth to the station, I saw this pair of signs.
In most places to get to the station, you walk towards the sign shown all over the country. But in Plymouth to do that would take you on a more roundabout route, than following the fingerpost.
They just don’t do details very well.
But they did have a sign saying “Plenty to see and do. Positively Plymouth” at the station. And of course no maps!
You may think I’m anti-car. But then I’ve never been anywhere with so many speed cameras.
These two were in one of the main shopping streets.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen them in such a position before.
This picture sums up the centre of Plymouth
And guess where it is!
This clock on the Royal Bank of UK Taxpayers could be said to sum up the city.
If it’s working it is about half-an-hour slow. Or it was when I took the picture and you might be able to see the actual time on the church behind.
In my view the picture sums up the city. no-one believes in attention to detail.