Thursday, 6 February 2014

Government considering rail services to Okehampton following Dawlish collapse

Local MP Dan Rogerson has welcomed today's decision to conduct a comprehensive review into rail links between Cornwall, Devon and London which will look at re-introducing train services to Okehampton and Tavistock.

Following the collapse of the sea wall at Dawlish this week, the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, announced that the Government are working to restore and protect the main line at Dawlish as soon as possible.

At the same time he said that the Government will conduct a "rigourous review" of other options for linking the Great Western rail line south of Exeter and into Cornwall.

Trains last ran on the line between Exeter and Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock in 1968. Regular services between Okehampton and Exeter continued until 1972, with trains only running now on Sundays in summer.

North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson has campaigned to re-introduce more services to and from Okehampton to bring services close to the Launceston and Bude areas, and to examine the case for re-opening branch lines to Bude and to communities along the north coast to Padstow.

During a Parliamentary debate on railways in North Cornwall in June 2013, Mr Rogerson asked Transport Ministers to consider more services to Okehampton to benefit communities in east Cornwall and to help "if there were problems with the line further south in Devon".

Dan Rogerson commented:

"The priority for the Department for Transport is, rightly, to repair the damage at Dawlish to re-open and protect the existing main line from Penzance to London Paddington.

"However, I welcome the Government's decision to look at all the possible options for improving and protecting railway services to and from Cornwall. Restoring services between Exeter and Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock would help with capacity, help to bring services closer to Launceston and Bude, and help to keep Cornwall connected if there were problems with the line at Dawlish.

"The discussions should also examine the case for bringing any new line across into North Cornwall to ensure maximum resilience and to provide more options for Cornish residents and businesses."


Richard Harrold said...

Hi! Not holding my breath for action from the Government - which is why I've started a Facebook group (look up "Plymouth & Exeter Relief Railway") with the aim of founding a society inside the next few months, which will work with local authorities, businesses, charities and private individuals to get the railway reopened as a volunteer-led community/tourist enterprise, as per e.g. the South Devon Railway from Totnes to Buckfastleigh.

Richard Harrold said...

I won't hold my breath for Government action - which is why I've started the "Plymouth & Exeter Relief Railway" Facebook group, with the aim of forming a charitable trust in the next few months to tackle the reopening of the Bere Alston to Okehampton line itself. This would work with local authorities, charities and businesses to raise the funds, with volunteers working on the project alongside contractors as necessary. The heritage/community rail sector has an enviable track record (pun intended) of getting things done while local and national government just talk. With the closure of Dawlish costing the regional economy to the tune (I've heard estimates) of £20 million a DAY, it shouldn't be too hard to convince people and organisations to dig in their pockets and make it happen. If we made a start within the next twelve months, the whole thing could be done inside a decade - and we could then move on to reopening other closed lines, such as Launceston to Plymouth via Tavistock South, Okehampton to Bude via Halwill Jct, Halwill Jct to Wadebridge and Padstow via Launceston, Halwill Jct to Torrington, Bideford and Barnstaple and so on... the list of Beeching casualties across the West Country makes for grim reading.