New train line that could link Plymouth and London

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  • 11th April 2017

Commuting Just Got a Whole Lot Easier!

Could reopening the Northern Line in Devon solve Plymouth commuters’ rail woes? The derailment of a freight train on March 20 caused severe disruption for people heading to London from the Westcountry.

And services west of Exeter are disrupted on a regular basis whenever storm conditions hi the line at dawlish. So there is extra focus at the moment on reopening the Northern Line – the Exeter-Okehampton-Tavistock-Plymouth route, which closed in 1968 as part of the Beeching cuts.

 “There is only one rail route through Devon and Cornwall, We need another one.” – Professor Jon Shaw, head of the Centre for Sustainable Transport at Plymouth University

Meldon Viaduct Tain

Two reports have focused on a reopened Northern Line, but experts are divided on what the new link should be and what priority the plan should be given, with their views linked to what needs to be done and at what cost to make the route resilient.

The group ran a one-off return service to London on March 18, the first for 49 years. The Royal Oke sold out, attracting 500 passengers, although it had to be scrapped. “The line would have enormous economic benefits throughout the north west of the peninsula which, with the exception of the Exeter-Barnstaple line is a rail desert,” said Dr Michael Ireland, chair of OkeRail.

OkeRail says the Exeter-Okehampton should be a priority and could be done for £2m-£8m. OkeRail, a group with representatives of councils from parish to county level, says the 25-mile Exeter-Okehampton section could run regular services if £2million were spent. Spending £8million would make the section a fully-functioning branch line.

A plan for a five-mile section from Tavistock-Bere Alston, linking with the existing Tamar Valley line to Plymouth, is led by Devon County Council. The estimated cost is about £60million, including a new station in Tavistock. The route would take pressure off the A386 Tavistock-Plymouth road.

A report for the PRTF estimated the Okehampton-Tavistock stretch cost at £448million. That makes the building of the middle section much less attractive.

A full route would be more efficient, more attractive to franchise bidders and would offer “the capacity needed to attract freight back to the railway”.

The company suggests a line that could run 90mph trains, with fewer stations – giving a 1hr 15min Plymouth-Exeter journey time – and 1.5mile section by-passing Cowley Bridge, linking into the Taunton line. Regular trains connecting or going direct to London, would give an economic boost to north-west Devon and north-east Cornwall.

“The whole of Devon and Cornwall would be helped by the added network resilience a second route between Plymouth and Exeter would bring,” the company says in a report analysing the Northern Line.

The question still remains: Is reopening the Northern Line Viable? Read the full article here…

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