EventsOver 50 delegates joined Railfuture’s ‘Via Crediton’ rail meeting at the Boniface Centre in Crediton on Saturday 28th November 2015. Restoration of a full daily train service to Okehampton was the key theme. Railfuture Devon and Cornwall branch chairman Gerard Duddridge said that the special summer Sunday Okehampton to Exeter trains take around 42 minutes to St. Davids station, but this would drop to 24 minutes if the track was upgraded to become the second Plymouth to Exeter main line avoiding Dawlish.
New road access for buses and cars from the A30 near Okehampton station would benefit large areas of West Devon and North Cornwall and reduce traffic through the town centre. In the longer term a park and ride station might be built at Sourton or Okehampton Exeter Road.
Dr. Michael Ireland, Chair of Destination Okehampton and Okehampton Town Councillor, explained that they undertook research on the reopening proposal and were the lead local council on the railway project. They worked with others such as the Peninsula Rail Group & Peninsula Rail Task Force. They met with Claire Perry MP (Under Secretary of State, Dept. of Transport) on 7th August 2014 who said, ‘that the country was on the edge of a rail renaissance and that the South West had been short-changed by both road and rail network services over a number of years’.
John Burch, vice Chairman of the Tarka Rail Association, outlined the success of the adjacent Barnstaple line which shares the same route through Crediton. The number of users has more than tripled since 2001 to 615,000 in 2014. Capacity to run more trains is needed, plus line speed improvements and resilience to track damage from bad weather and flooding. Open level crossings such as Salmon Pool near Crediton remain an issue and need to be replaced with automatic barriers.
Chris Austin from Railfuture’s Networks Group looked at the success of the recent Borders Railway reopening in Scotland and Ebbw Vale in Wales. Since the Okehampton line closed in 1972 rail demand has grown across the rail network and would also have done so from Okehampton. Road congestion, as in Exeter and parking constraints at railhead stations encourage this growth. The railway provides greater journey time reliability and internet access to travel information encourages younger age users.
Establishing a daily service to Okehampton, with approval of the Department for Transport, requires a business case to be demonstrated and a sponsor to lead the reopening process. Funding would be needed and might come from the Local Enterprise Partnership, Devon County Council, West Devon Borough Council, from Network Rail or the train operating company such as Great Western Railway.
The meeting closed with questions and a strong consensus that the reopening needs to happen.
On 8th February 2014 both lines to Taunton from the east were closed by flooding whilst Whiteball Tunnel was already closed for maintenance, and the South-Western line to Exeter was closed by a landslip at Crewkerne, leaving Exeter and Taunton totally isolated. This had the effect of cutting off Cornwall and half of Devon from the rest of the UK railway network. The lines to Exeter have since reopened, and the line at Dawlish was repaired and re-opened on 4th April 2014.
However the economy of the South-West cannot afford to be cutoff for long periods of time again in future. In November 2012 Railfuture published this report: Railway Flooding in Devon: Observations & Recommendations. These recommendations have yet to be actioned. At our Taunton conference in 2013, the speaker John Dora of John Dora Consulting, a former Network Rail engineer, warned about environmental problems and referred particularly to the sea wall.
Railfuture are campaigning for a resilient rail network in the south west which will also support economic growth. Click Dawlish to find out more about our campaign for an additional route and faster journey times, and register your support.
New stationsNew stations recently opened at Newcourt and Cranbrook, with another approved at Marsh Barton. These are a key element of the Devon Metro concept, part of Devon County Council's public transport strategy, funded by the previous government's New Stations Fund. Railfuture supports the campaign for further new stations at Edginswell, Cullompton and Wellington.
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Devon-Cornwall rail user groupsRail user groups in Devon and Cornwall are shown on Railfuture's Regional List of Rail User Groups. The Regional List can be downloaded in PDF format here.
ContactsChairman - gerard.duddridge at railfuture.org.uk
Secretary - peter.mulley at railfuture.org.uk
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