Close Close
Poll

Do you agree with Driver Only Operation on railways?

View the poll

Lack of capacity drives calls for new Devon route

CrossCountry 221121 passes First Great Western 150234 at Dawlish on April 4 2014. RICHARD CLINNICK.

Capacity constraints between Exeter and Newton Abbot within the next 20 to 30 years could trigger the need for a new or re-opened second route through Devon.

Peninsula Rail Task Force Programme Manager John Hillman told RAIL on June 14 that passenger numbers along the coastal Devon route were rising 5.7% per year. In the past 17 years there has been a 123% increase in passengers in the West Country.

“We have not stated a preferred route,” he said. “In the future, and there is the caveat of the Digital Railway, we will run out of capacity as passenger growth is 5.7% per year.

“Additional infrastructure will be needed in the next 20 to 30 years. That could be the northern route via Okehampton, the Dawlish Avoiding Line or digital railway.” 

  • For more on this exclusive story, read RAIL 803, published on June 22.
  • For an in-depth interview with the PRTF, read RAIL 804, published on July 6.

Comment as guest


Login  /  Register

Comments

  • Jim Comrie - 20/06/2016 12:32

    What is a digital railway?

    Reply as guest

    Login  /  Register
  • Philip Walker - 20/06/2016 12:36

    The answer is the Dawlish avoiding line because this would: 1) give a resilient route to the SW that would continue operating normally in the event of problems at Dawlish, therefore not only avoiding coach transfers, but also diversions via Okehampton (if this were reopened); 2) Torbay would still be served if the line at Dawlish is blocked; and 3) such a route could contribute to a faster route to the SW. It cannot be the case that that such a line would be too costly and poor value for money, as there has been investment in providing two fast two dual carriageway roads through Devon.

    Reply as guest

    Login  /  Register
  • Philip Walker - 20/06/2016 12:43

    Even if a Dawlish avoiding line is built, the Okehampton route could still be reopened to connect areas of NW Devon and NE Cornwall to the rail system. But I suggest Barnstaple should be a priority for direct London trains as its catchment area has a far bigger population than that served by the Okehampton route.

    Reply as guest

    Login  /  Register
  • Philip Walker - 20/06/2016 12:57

    The Exeter-Newton Abbot capacity problem would surely be more likely to be solved by the Dawlish Avoiding Line which could take the fast trains, while the coastal line would continue to take the stopping ones. As for "Digital Railway", I understand this involves removing lineside signals and running trains at much closer intervals. I'm sceptical because while this might work for Underground lines such as the Victoria where all the train are the same speed and have the same station stops, it is surely less likely to be the answer for the main line railway which has trains of varying speeds and stopping patterns, as well as complicated junctions. Could it result in a general slow-down of the system as slower the trains are, the closer the intervals they can run?

    Reply as guest

    Login  /  Register
  • Sam The Green Cat - 20/06/2016 23:22

    How did they cope 50 or 60 years ago with a much more frequent passenger service and numerous freight trains then ? There is no currently no freight west of Exeter ! Sounds a bit strange to me !

    Reply as guest

    Login  /  Register
  • Nicksy - 22/06/2016 11:00

    Philip's comment are very salient and sensible. However there is another context which is not being given the prominence it deserves in this debate and that is the proposal for a 'Devon Metro' centred around Exeter. Already the line from Honiton has a new station at Cranbrook, and likewise at Newcourt on the Exmouth branch. A new Marsh Barton stop is proposed on the way to Newton Abbot, and planning applications are in progress for Edginswell/Torbay Hospital on the main line to Paignton. A light rail link has been proposed to Brixham, and Kingswear is still connected. To the north an Okehampton East Parkway is mooted as a new stop on a 7-day service to Okehampton, as has Cullompton and the former line into Tiverton itself. Exeter would be then be served from seven 'Metro' directions at, say, 2tph each from Barnstable, Tiverton/Cullompton, Honiton, Exmouth, Paignton, Plymouth and Okehampton. The unused bays and through platforms at Newton Abbot, St Davids and Exeter Central would need reinstatement together with other works. All this to move journeys from the roads to rail. This should be addressed with longer, new, Metro trains, electrification, and improvements to capacity by these means. A great deal of money could be spent to tunnel a few miles through the Devon hills only for trains to have to slow down to less than half their maximum performance speed anyway after Newton Abbot. Surely it would be wiser, quicker, cheaper and produce prompt results by increasing line speeds west of Newton, and investing in what we all want which is less road traffic and pollution and more trains? The seawall at Dawish is now stable and continues to be made more resilient. Please note it is only the Voyagers that are stopped during a few windy high tides.

    Reply as guest

    Login  /  Register
  • Chris - 22/06/2016 15:15

    I totally agree that there needs to be serious consideration of an alternative to the current route along the sea wall, but my reasoning would be purely one of resilience, not capacity. This is because most of the passenger train paths along the sea wall are not running anywhere close to maximum capacity, with many trains only formed of 2, 3 or 4 vehicles. Double the length of these trains and you double the capacity of each path.

    Reply as guest

    Login  /  Register
  • Philip Walker - 22/06/2016 20:59

    Re Nicksy's comment, the increase in local demand his comment envisages only adds to the case for a new Exeter-Newton Abbot line given in my comments. It is that stretch (Exeter-Newton Abbot) which has the capacity constraints. But he is right that the route towards Plymouth west of Newton Abbot needs faster speeds. Perhaps either the new Dawlish Avoiding Line could be extended to Plymouth at a later stage, or speed improvements implemented as he suggests.

    Reply as guest

    Login  /  Register
  • Paul, Bedfordshire - 03/08/2016 15:55

    The Dawlish avoiding line is a £3 bn fantasy. If it was ever built then Dawlish and Teignmouth stations would likely close the next time there was sea wall trouble. The idea that the Dawlish route is out of capacity is absurd. It will see all of two intercity trains and two slow trains an hour under Devon Metro plans and already has passing loops at Dawlish Warren. However does the Brighton Line run 12 an hour each way on two tracks south of Three Bridges? Renstatement of the LSW route as single line with passing places would cost 20% of the Dawlish Diversion to bulid and by running through services from Plymouth to Waterloo would give a rail connection from north Devon and Cornwall via the proposed Sourton Parkway on the X. A30 expressway and provide Chiltern type cut price competion, ending GWRs monopoly on Plymouth to London services. It would also provide a diversion for the whole south Devon route not just the Dawlish bit and give Plymouth commuters to Exeter a city centre stop at Exeter Central, rather than dumping them at a Parkway called St David's, a mile out of town at the botton of a steep hill. There really is no other sensible option.

    Reply as guest

    Login  /  Register
  • Paul, Bedfordshire - 03/08/2016 15:56

    The Dawlish avoiding line is a £3 bn fantasy. If it was ever built then Dawlish and Teignmouth stations would likely close the next time there was sea wall trouble. The idea that the Dawlish route is out of capacity is absurd. It will see all of two intercity trains and two slow trains an hour under Devon Metro plans and already has passing loops at Dawlish Warren. However does the Brighton Line run 12 an hour each way on two tracks south of Three Bridges? Renstatement of the LSW route as single line with passing places would cost 20% of the Dawlish Diversion to bulid and by running through services from Plymouth to Waterloo would give a rail connection from north Devon and Cornwall via the proposed Sourton Parkway on the X. A30 expressway and provide Chiltern type cut price competion, ending GWRs monopoly on Plymouth to London services. It would also provide a diversion for the whole south Devon route not just the Dawlish bit and give Plymouth commuters to Exeter a city centre stop at Exeter Central, rather than dumping them at a Parkway called St David's, a mile out of town at the botton of a steep hill. There really is no other sensible option.

    Reply as guest

    Login  /  Register

RAIL is Britain's market leading modern railway magazine.

Download the app

Related content