The Anonymous Widower

Would A North-East And South West Sleeper Service Be A Good Idea?

I ask this question as in the October 2021, there is an article entitled A New Sleeper, which has this explanatory sub-title.

Des Bradley describes his concept for a North-East to South-West Overnight Service

Paraphrasing his resume from the article, Des Bradley is probably best described as a rail enthusiast, who has travelled all over Europe by train, especially on sleeper trains. He has also worked recently with ScotRail, where he led their integrated travel activities.

I regularly use the Caledonian Sleeper on my trips to Scotland,  often taking a sleeper one way and a day time train the other. Towards the end of next month, I have tickets booked for a low-cost Lumo train to Edinburgh and a sleeper back to London in the evening.

In this blog, I have regularly written about the sleeper trains being introduced across Europe and this summer I had intended to go via Eurostar and NightJet to Vienna. But the pandemic has kept me in England for two years.

An Edinburgh And Plymouth Sleeper

Des Bradley is proposing a sleeper train between Edinburgh and Plymouth.

  • A typical daytime trip on this route takes eight hours and forty-five minutes.
  • Intermediate stops would be Berwick-upon-Tweed, Newcastle, Durham, Darlington, York, Leeds, Sheffield, Derby, Birmingham New Street, Cheltenham Spa, Bristol Parkway, Bristol Temple Meads, Taunton, Exeter St. David’s and Newton Abbot.
  • Journey time would be just over twelve hours.
  • By comparison a sleeper between London and Edinburgh takes about seven hours and thirty minutes.

He calls the service the NESW Sleeper.

I have some thoughts on the proposal.

A Spine Route Between Edinburgh And Penzance

The route is effectively a spine between Edinburgh and Plymouth on which other services can be built.

Unlike the Caledonian Sleeper, Des Bradley doesn’t feel the train should split and join as it travels up and down the country.

But I do think that the NESW Sleeper can be timed to fit in with high-quality connecting services to extend the coverage.

An Innovative Timetable

Des Bradley’s timetable is innovative.

  • Trains leave Edinburgh and Plymouth around 21:00.
  • Trains arrive at their destination around 09:00.
  • Trains stop for about two hours at Derby.
  • After resting at Derby, the trains are effectively early morning trains.

Note.

  1. The wait at Derby, adds extra time, that can be used to make up for engineering diversions, which often happen at night!
  2. The trains could be used by non-sleeper passengers to get to Plymouth or Edinburgh early.

The consequence of the second point, is that the trains will have to offer some Standard Class seats.

Should The Train Serve Penzance?

The Great Western Railway’s Night Riviera sleeper train calls at Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, St.Austell, Truro, Redruth, Cambourne, Hoyle and St. Erth between Plymouth and Penzance.

According to a proposed NESW timetable, the Night Riviera has long gone, before the NESW Sleeper arrives in Plymouth at 08:58.

But I’m sure Great Western Railway could arrange for a convenient service between Plymouth and Penzance to pick up passengers in the morning and deliver them in the evening. This picture taken at Plymouth, indicates that cross-platform interchange may be possible.

This picture shows a pair of GWR Castles, which regularly work additional services between Plymouth and Penzance.

What About Wales?

I suspect that Cardiff, Swansea and other towns and cities in South Wales, can be served in a similar way, by connecting with GWR services at Bristol Parkway station.

Other Connecting Services

Birmingham New Street, Derby, Leeds and Newcastle are important interchange stations and I can see services being timed to bring passengers to and from the NESW Sleeper.

Rolling Stock

The author offers choices for the trains, based on what is used currently in the UK and adding multiple units. But he is definitely tending towards fixed formations.

I feel that the trains should meet the following criteria.

They should be of similar standard as the Caledonian Sleeper.

They would need an independently-powered capability for sections without electrification.

They should be zero-carbon.

They should offer a range of accommodation including Standard Class seats to cater the early birds and budget travellers.

The possibility to run at 100 mph or faster might be useful to catch up time on some sections of the route.

I think that two trains could be possible.

  • A rake of coaches hauled by a hydrogen-electric locomotive.
  • A battery-electric Sleeper Multiple-Unit with a range of perhaps eighty miles on batteries.

This is a sentence from the article.

The concept of ‘Sleeper Multiple-Units’ has also emerged in recent years, and this idea could be attractive; although it has some inherent inflexibility, it could in the future allow multi-portion or experimental new routes to be tagged onto the core service.

Sleeper Multiple Units might enable a South Wales and Edinburgh service, that used the same train path between Edinburgh and Bristol Parkway, where the two trains would split and join.

Conclusion

I like this proposal and definitely think it is a good idea.

 

 

 

September 26, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Eight New Freeports Set To Open In The UK

Today, in his 2021 Budget, Rishi Sunak announced eight new freeports.

This article on the BBC, which is entitled Freeports: What Are They And Where Will They Be?, gives a brief guide to the freeports.

This links link to the nearest I can find to an official web site for each of the freeports.

The Government has said that the freeports will start their operations late this year.

March 3, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Electrification Between Exeter And Plymouth

Eventually, there will be electric passenger trains between Exeter and Plymouth! Great Western Railway’s objective must be for passengers to board their Hitachi AT-300 train at Paddington and be powered all the way to Penzance by electricity, without using a drop of diesel. The added ingredient will be battery power.

In Sparking A Revolution, I gave Hitachi’s specification for a proposed battery-electric train.

  • Range – 55-65 miles
  • Performance – 90-100 mph
  • Recharge – 10 minutes when static
  • Routes – Suburban near electrified lines
  • Battery Life – 8-10 years

As the distance between Exeter and Plymouth is 52 miles, the Hitachi specification could have been designed around this route, which as these pictures show is in places, very close to the sea, where the line runs along the South Devon Railway Sea Wall.

Global warming will probably mean, we’ll see a repeat of the major sea wall breach  that happened at Dawlish in 2014.

I would suspect that the Network Rail’s solution to the problems of efficient low or zero-carbon traction between Exeter and Plymouth includes the following.

  • A very robust railway.
  • Extreme protection from almost everything the sea and the weather can produce.
  • Could we see some concrete tunnels, like the Swiss and others use in mountainous areas to protect from snow? Rail Magazine says yes! At Horse Cove.
  • No electrification as water and electricity are not a good mix, except in an electrolyser to produce hydrogen, oxygen and/or chlorine.
  • Battery or hydrogen-powered passenger trains or freight locomotives.
  • Digital in-cab signalling. Traditional signalling is even more expensive equipment to be swept away.

From media reports, this looks like the way Network Rail are thinking.

Charging The Trains

Battery-electric trains will need to be charged. There are three convenient stations; Exeter St. Davids, Newton Abbott and Plymouth.

As far as passenger services are concerned, it could be a very efficient zero-carbon railway.

Electrification At Exeter St. Davids

Exeter St. Davids is an important hub for services between Devon and Cornwall and the rest of Great Britain.

  • GWR services run to London Paddington via Newbury.
  • GWR services run to London Paddington via Bristol
  • GWR services run to Plymouth and Penzance via Newton Abbott.
  • GWR local services run to Barnstaple, Exmouth and Paignton.
  • CrossCountry services run to the Midlands, North and Scotland via Bristol.
  • South Western Railway services run to London Waterloo via Basingstoke.

In future, there could be services running to Plymouth on the reopened route via Okehampton and Tavistock.

All these services could be run by battery-electric trains for sixty miles from Exeter, if they could be fully-charged at the station.

Note.

  1. Trains to London Paddington and Bristol could easily reach Taunton, which is thirty miles away.
  2. Trains to London Waterloo could reach Yeovil Junction, which is fifty miles away.
  3. Trains to the West could reach Plymouth, which is fifty-two miles away.
  4. Barnstaple is forty miles away, so would probably need some help to get back.
  5. Exmouth is eleven miles away, so a return journey is probably possible.
  6. Paignton is twenty-eight miles away, so a return journey is probably possible, with a top-up at Newton Abbot if required.

Exeter is going to be very busy charging trains.

It should be noted, that trains to and from London Paddington and Bristol, all share the same route as far as Cogload Junction, where the London Paddington and Bristol routes divide.

  • Cogload Junction is thirty-six miles from Exeter.
  • Cogload Junction and Newbury, where the electrification to London Paddington starts are eighty-five miles apart.
  • Cogload Junction and Bristol Temple Meads, where the electrification to London Paddington starts are forty miles apart.

I wonder if it would be sensible to electrify between Exeter St. David station and Cogload Junction.

  • From my virtual helicopter, the line doesn’t look to be in the most difficult category to electrify.
  • There is only one tunnel and a few old bridges and a couple of level crossings.
  • Some of the route is alongside the M5.
  • Trains would arrive in Exeter with full batteries and could do a quick stop before continuing their journeys.
  • Trains would arrive at Cogload Junction and could reach Bristol Temple Meads without stopping for a recharge.
  • Bristol services that are extended to Taunton and Exeter could be run by battery-electric trains.

I also feel, that with upwards of twenty-five miles of extra electrification between Cogload Junction and Newbury, that battery-electric trains could run between London Paddington and Exeter via the Reading-Taunton Line.

Electrification At Plymouth

As with Exeter St. Davis, Plymouth is an important hub for services between Devon and Cornwall and the rest of Great Britain.

  • Most services run to Penzance in the West and Exeter in the East.
  • There is a local service to Gunnislake, which is fifteen miles away.

Lots of charging capacity, will enable battery-electric trains to reach their destinations, except for Penzance

Trains Between Plymouth And Penzance

Hitachi must have despaired, when it was pointed out that the distance between Penzance and Plymouth is eighty miles! This is fifteen miles longer than the range of their proposed battery-electric train.

The simplest solution would be to build a battery-electric train with an eighty mile range, that could travel between Plymouth and Penzance on a single charge. With charging at Penzance it could return to Plymouth.

The longer range, would also mean that, with perhaps ten extra miles of electrification, that battery-electric trains could bridge the electrification gap between Cogload Junction and Newbury.

Other solutions range from selective electrification, all the way up to full electrification of the Cornish Main Line.

It should be noted that there are the following branches on the Cornish Main Line.

If these branches are going to be served by battery-electric trains, arrangements will have to be made for their charging. This could either be on the main line, at the remote terminal or at both.

Would it be easier to run the branches using battery-electric trains, if the Cornish Main Line was fully electrified?

The Cornish Main Line also carries a number of heavy freight trains, most of which seem to be going to or from Burngullow, so I suspect they are in connection with the movement of china clay.

Currently, these heavy freight trains appear to be hauled by diesel locomotives, but if the Cornish Main Line were to be fully electrified, could they be run by electric locomotives?

Electrification Of A Reopened Northern Route

In the May 2020 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article, which is entitled Beeching Reversal Fund Bids.

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.

One of the bids is for the Tavistock-Okrhampton Reopening scheme (TORs), which would reopen the former Exeter to Plymouth railway of the LSWR, as a new route between Exeter and Taunton in the East and Plymouth in the West.

  • The original railway was double-track.
  • Most of the infrastructure is intact.
  • The route would totally avoid Dawlish.

This is also said in the Modern Railways article.

It proposes journey times could be as little as six minutes longer than via the existing route between Exeter and Plymouth and that there could be opportunities for freight trains to avoid the steep gradients over the Devon banks between Newton Abbott and Plymouth. Provision of electrification for TORs as part of a wider programme for main lines in the region is also advocated.

Could an electrified route via Tavistock and Okehampton be connected to an electrified Cornish Main Line, to create an electrified route across Devon and Cornwall?

Connecting At The Royal Albert Bridge

This Google Map shows the Royal Albert Bridge and the Tamar Bridge over the River Tamar.

Note.

  1. The Royal Albert Bridge to the South of the modern Tamar Bridge.
  2. The Great Western Main Line running East to Plymouth and West to Penzance.
  3. The Tamar Valley Line running up the Eastern bank of the River Tamar and under the Eastern approaches to both bridges.
  4. Going North on the Tamar Valley Line leads to the TORs and going South leads to Plymouth station.

I can see a difficult design problem at the Eastern end of the Royal Albert Bridge, as a very complicated junction will be needed to allow all trains go the way they need.

Trains wanting to call at Plymouth station and use TORs will need to reverse in the station.

Connecting At The East Of Exeter

This Google Map shows The Tarka Line and the Bristol-Exeter Line join at Cowley Bridge Junction.

Note.

  1. The Tarka Line to Barnstaple and TORs leaves the map in the North West corner.
  2. The Bristol-Exeter Line to Taunton, Bristol and London Paddington leaves the map in the North East corner.
  3. Cowley Bridge Junction is in the South West corner of the map.
  4. Cntinuing South West leads to Exeter St. David’s station.

It looks to me, that Cowley Bridge Junction will need to be made into a full triangular junction, so that trains can go directly between the Bristol-Exeter Line and the Tarka Line.

Trains wanting to call at Exeter St. David’s station and use TORs will need to reverse in the station.

The Reversal Problem

If you wanted to run a passenger service between Taunton and Penzance using TORs with stops at Exeter, Okehampton, Tavistock, Plymouth and Truro, the train would need to reverse twice at Exeter and Plymouth.

These days with modern fast bi-mode multiple units, it’s not a problem, but in the days of Beeching, when the Tavistock and Okehampton route was originally closed in 1968, there probably wasn’t a suitable train other than a slow two-car diesel multiple unit.

I think, that fast expresses to and from Penzance will still take the current route.

  • Battery-electric trains can handle the route at 100 mph.
  • No reversals will be needed.
  • There is a call at Newton Abbott for connections to Torquay and Paignton.
  • Passengers wanting Okehampton, Tavistock and other stations on the TORs route can change at Exeter or Plymouth.

The Modern Railways article says this about services on the TORs route.

The case suggests that services could operate as an extension of the SWR Waterloo to Exeter service, or potentially as an extension of CrossCountry services beyond Exeter. During periods when the coastal route is blocked, additional services could use the TORs route, potentially running non-stop.

Note.

  1. As the extension of the SWR service would run the other way through Exeter St. David’s station, there would be no need to reverse.
  2. But I suspect the CrossCountry service would need the reverse.
  3. I feel for efficiency, that diverted freight services would need the efficient junctions at each end of TORs.

It probably would have helped if the Great Western and the London and South Western Railways had had a better crystal ball.

Fast Electric Freight Services To And From Devon And Cornwall

If the following lines are electrified.

  • Cogload Junction and Exeter
  • TORs
  • Cornish Main Line

I feel that electric freight services will be able to run between Taunton and Penzance.

All it would need to complete the electrified route would be to electrify the following.

  • Cogload Junction and Bristol
  • Cogload Junction and Newbury

What would a high-speed freight route do for the economy of the two South Western counties?

 

 

April 25, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

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

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

Artemis Lives

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!

January 3, 2017 Posted by | Business | , , , | Leave a 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

A Job Well Done

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.

 

April 5, 2014 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

Plymouth Gives Payday Lenders The Boot

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.

August 12, 2013 Posted by | Finance, News | , , , | Leave a comment