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Okehampton Railway in Administration


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3 hours ago, Oldddudders said:

And the true outdoor enthusiast will relish getting onto Dartmoor by easy public transport. 

It would be even easier if the network of (mostly) Sunday Dartmoor bus services was to be restored.  They once took you almost anywhere a bus could access.  None remains.  

 

They have become a victim of various government policies.  Free travel for seniors wasn't so much the issue because as "dated" services not running year-round and aimed at tourists they could be exempted and fares charged to everyone; the operators chose not to do that iirc.  Devon County Council had its budget cut, cut and cut again by Westminster meaning there was nothing left to provide revenue support to these and many other rural bus services.  Minibuses which once plied the narrow lanes had step entrances which are not now permitted; some routes cannot be accessed by "low floor" buses most of which are at least a little larger than some they replaced.  

 

The use of "heritage" Bristol FLF and Bristol VRT buses on one route was subject to agreements with the owners which have now lapsed; while they too are considered step-entrance vehicles if they were used on fewer than 20 days per year a derogation applies to allow their operation.  

 

Those who seek to have Okehampton reconnected with Tavistock and both major towns once more with daily rail service might care to remind themselves that the daily bus between Okehampton and Tavistock is also very poorly patronised and may not last for ever.  

 

Okehampton deserves better and it seems the rail link returning may be the start of things.  Buses radiating out once more across the region would definitely be an attraction to kick-start a revived rail service as well as possibly bringing in a few folk from outlying areas for onward rail connections.  

 

 

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3 hours ago, Oldddudders said:

Compared with the ongoing nightmare that is 2020, our Sunday trip from Okehampton to Exeter last year, including a nice lunch and some shopping, now seems a different world altogether. If - apparently now when - this becomes a regular service it will be very good news indeed. And the true outdoor enthusiast will relish getting onto Dartmoor by easy public transport. 

We have stayed at Okehampton three times in recent years, all as a result of using the Sunday service from Exeter and then seeing the various walking options in the area.

We try to make one or two of our short breaks in the west country each year a car-free trip, I will certainly be looking to make use of the service when it starts,

 

cheers

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6 hours ago, KeithMacdonald said:

Latest from South Western Railway, rumour that they will extend the Waterloo service to Okehampton.

 

image.png.fc9eb421a9c4a5ab00ca076500a1ff46.png

 

I can understand Swindon to Southampton but why Southampton to Bristol as that has a GWR service, and given that GWR run the Devon Metro it makes more sense for them to operate the Okehampton services

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17 minutes ago, johnofwessex said:

 

I can understand Swindon to Southampton but why Southampton to Bristol as that has a GWR service, and given that GWR run the Devon Metro it makes more sense for them to operate the Okehampton services

1.  There is also a comment referring to an assessment of other TOCs already operating on some routes and the potential for demand.  There is also the ORCATS-raiding scenario whereby a TOC may claim a proportion of all revenue taken on a route if they run a single train.  SWR already runs Salisbury - Bristol services which are for the most part lightly loaded and merely duplicate the GWR services which are on the non-Covid timetable now mostly 5-car and so less crowded than they once were.  SWR is the major player at Southampton and could be looking to make arrangement with GWR to take over the Southampton - Bristol "extras" which serve the minor stations which the hourly Portsmouth trains do not.  Whether this would include the Brighton service is not discussed.  SWR's predecessor SWT was no stranger there either.

 

2.  Devon Metro is not intended to cover Okehampton.  Detailed arrangements and timetables are a long way off yet for this service and it is not certain that SWR would in fact operate it.  

 

In all of this there remains a big question.  Where does the rolling stock come from?  The 158 / 159 fleets are at full stretch now with the Somerset local services having mopped up the tiny amount of slack there was but allowing more 6-car trains between Salisbury and Yeovil Junction plus a crew base at the latter.  Both those have benefitted the main line.  The 158 / 159 fleet might be approaching life-expiry by the time Okehampton was ready to reopen.  All-new stock would be required to replace them which isn't even on the radar yet.  Simply bringing in more 158s from other TOCs (even assuming any were spare) may not be the answer.  Salisbury depot is just about at capacity and unable to accommodate more units.  Most traffic to Okehampton would likely be to or from Exeter with very little through to London via the LSWR route - it is faster via the GWR main line - so passenger capacity should not be the issue.  It's not as simple as putting out a statement of intent.  

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That looks like a fairly speculative slide from someone's PowerPoint presentation. A "should we look into this properly?" type exercise. They might try, time will tell...

 

The Okehampton service being an extension of the London trains seems like a fairly sensible proposition. It's not just London that it'll offer connections to, presumably journeys like Honiton to Crediton will become a single train journey, but where they'll get the trains from is another matter. Maybe some different units (156? 170?) could be available for the Salisbury to Southamptons and Lymington branch and that will free up enough 158/9s.  They'll need some DMUs if they're going to reopen the Fawley branch too, which has been speculated about on here 

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3 minutes ago, Zomboid said:

Lymington branch and that will free up enough 158/9s

Lymington trains have been 450s every day for some time now.  The 158 duty ceased and the unit was redeployed to strengthen London services from 6 to 8-cars.  

 

At the very least an extension from Exeter to Okehampton will require one extra unit per two-hourly service.  So two units for an hourly service.  That assumes a fairly tight turnback at Okehampton and paths across the junctions at Coleford, Cowley Bridge and Exeter St. Davids.  It also assumes that this unit would be split from the other at Exeter (which could be at Central but is likely to be at St. Davids) which occupies platform time and requires shunting staff.  

 

It's not anywhere near decided.  But if, for example, GWR found spare capacity in its 158 fleet they could either run the service themselves or sub-lease the units to SWR to permit them to do so.  Some of those 158s have run for years as 3-car 158/9 hybrids (but no longer do so) and could do again making up three-car units for a Waterloo - Okehampton service.  

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Also interesting in this is the DRSA:

https://www.dartmoor-railway-sa.org/aboutDRSA

https://www.dartmoor-railway-sa.org/news

https://www.dartmoor-railway-sa.org/home

 

They seem optimistic in some ways about the railway’s future, but I wonder if there is potential for conflict between their dual objectives of ‘support[ing] the development and operation of heritage, tourist and enthusiast rail services on the DR’ and ‘support[ing] the reinstatement of public rail services to Okehampton.’ Obviously it would be good if the two could co-exist, although not if the reinstated main line service was compromised. Under the plans for the regular service, what would happen to the passenger station at Meldon Quarry?

 

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On 28/11/2020 at 20:26, APOLLO said:

Some spare Pacers @oop north !!!

 

Your quite welcome to them !!

Seriously though the Pacer retirement, as welcome as it is, pushes the demand for other DMUs higher, leaving less scope for finding something existing suitable for Okehampton.

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Still some spare 319s in store which could become 769s and growl up to Okehampton. The heritage operation might be able to use the former “Padstow” bay and run the Meldon shuttle from there entirely separate from a reopened passenger line though sharing their little bit with ballast workings. 

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1 hour ago, Gwiwer said:

The heritage operation might be able to use the former “Padstow” bay and run the Meldon shuttle from there entirely separate from a reopened passenger line though sharing their little bit with ballast workings. 

 

That’s what I was thinking. The fact that their stock is kept at the quarry and that it could be kept separate is obviously an advantage. I wouldn’t have thought sharing with (weekday?) freight trains would be an insurmountable issue either. According to Wikipedia (more accurate sources may be available) the Okehampton to Meldon Viaduct section is 2 miles long, so actually a fairly substantial run. I can’t really see mainline passenger services being extended to Meldon (unless the line itself is extended beyond there).

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4 hours ago, 009 micro modeller said:

 

That’s what I was thinking. The fact that their stock is kept at the quarry and that it could be kept separate is obviously an advantage. I wouldn’t have thought sharing with (weekday?) freight trains would be an insurmountable issue either. According to Wikipedia (more accurate sources may be available) the Okehampton to Meldon Viaduct section is 2 miles long, so actually a fairly substantial run. I can’t really see mainline passenger services being extended to Meldon (unless the line itself is extended beyond there).

I can't see Okehampton passenger services being bothered too much by the Meldon freight movements, if they can manage to get the freight movements through Exeter St Davids.  Should anyone decide that a passenger service through to Meldon might be to some advantage, it isn't likely that would cause a timetable problem, although making profitable might be another matter.

 

Julian

 

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2 hours ago, jcredfer said:

I can't see Okehampton passenger services being bothered too much by the Meldon freight movements, if they can manage to get the freight movements through Exeter St Davids.  Should anyone decide that a passenger service through to Meldon might be to some advantage, it isn't likely that would cause a timetable problem, although making profitable might be another matter.

 

Julian

 

If Coleford Junction was restored as a proper junction and the Crediton to Coleford Junction section became a real double track route then that would provide more capacity for the enhanced service. 

Passenger services would not extend beyond Okehampton to Meldon Quarry, that would only happen in the final part of the restoration of the former SR route between Exeter and Plymouth. Which will surely be many years away in the future,

 

cheers

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On 28/11/2020 at 21:43, Zomboid said:

That looks like a fairly speculative slide from someone's PowerPoint presentation. A "should we look into this properly?" type exercise. They might try, time will tell...

 

The Okehampton service being an extension of the London trains seems like a fairly sensible proposition. It's not just London that it'll offer connections to, presumably journeys like Honiton to Crediton will become a single train journey, but where they'll get the trains from is another matter. Maybe some different units (156? 170?) could be available for the Salisbury to Southamptons and Lymington branch and that will free up enough 158/9s.  They'll need some DMUs if they're going to reopen the Fawley branch too, which has been speculated about on here 

 

That slide certainly is an official one - It has come from the All Party Parliamentary Group on South Western Railway (@appgonswr) who's chair is Chris Loder MP. The slide itself, later uploaded to twitter was part of a recent presentation by Mark Hopwood  (South Western Railway MD) to the All Party Parliamentary Group Meeting on the SWR Franchise. 

 

So it's pretty official! 

 

It actually largely makes sense - While it is true that Salisbury is at capacity, transferring the current GWR operated "Trans Wilts" across to SWR would mean that the service can start and terminate at Salisbury, with services that currently terminate at Westbury extended to Salisbury / Southampton (a long held desire by many). The Metro West project will also see an increase of GWR Services head around to Westbury from Bristol.  

 

Regarding Okehampton, Extending a bi-hourly SWR service from Exeter to Okehampton covers a number of basis. GWR Currently doesn't have any spare DMUs, and is heavily reliant on the release of the Turbo's from Reading by the VERY VERY Delayed 769 project (to put that into perspective, they should be operating their 8th in service last week, they only have one and that cannot leave the depot), by allowing a service to be operated by SWR, this could be done by using a unit or two which would normally layover in the new yard. Also, until the West of England line improvements begin and allow the Devon Metro to be extended to Honiton / Axminster, there isn't any realistically available spare paths - any viable service would need to run up to Exeter Central which in the evening peak sees Two Exmouth, one Barnstaple (terminating at St James Park), One Waterloo and one Honiton run through it. It's hoped that, with various improvements being made to the Crediton - Okehampton Stretch, it can be ran up to Okehampton and back to Exeter within the hour, though this is obviously dependant on stopping and passing the GWR operated Barnstaple services at Crediton. 

 

Another base covered with SWR to Okehampton is that, not only does it cover the objective of connecting Okehampton with Exeter Central, but that it prevents the "clogging up" of Platforms 2 & 3 with hourly terminating / starting services, and creates more flexibility for the Devon Metro services which are predominantly limited to those two platforms (Half hourly Exmouth / Hourly Barnstaple).   

 

Of course those proposals mean more of a stretch of the SWR Sprinter fleet, but SWR has always had the luxury of a handful more 158s than others. And fortunately for SWR & GWR, two TOCs are soon to release a considerable number of 158s in rather good condition. 

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On 28/11/2020 at 19:45, johnofwessex said:

 

I can understand Swindon to Southampton but why Southampton to Bristol as that has a GWR service, and given that GWR run the Devon Metro it makes more sense for them to operate the Okehampton services

 

With regards to Southampton - Bristol, I am surprised at this too. My thoughts are that this could mean the current Cardiff - Portsmouth service is split at Bristol Temple Meads which, while being great for performance, wouldn't be as great for the passenger. It could mean that more of the 158 fleet transfers across from GWR to SWR to cover the Portsmouth - Bristol section, while GWR operates Cardiff - Bristol with their HSTs. Or it could mean that SWR takes on more of the smaller stations while GWR runs an Express service (as we currently see between Salisbury and Southampton with GWR calling at Romsey and Southampton, SWR stopping in-between). 

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8 hours ago, surfsup said:

 

With regards to Southampton - Bristol, I am surprised at this too. My thoughts are that this could mean the current Cardiff - Portsmouth service is split at Bristol Temple Meads which, while being great for performance, wouldn't be as great for the passenger. It could mean that more of the 158 fleet transfers across from GWR to SWR to cover the Portsmouth - Bristol section, while GWR operates Cardiff - Bristol with their HSTs. Or it could mean that SWR takes on more of the smaller stations while GWR runs an Express service (as we currently see between Salisbury and Southampton with GWR calling at Romsey and Southampton, SWR stopping in-between). 

Would it not be more logical to split this service at Westbury? The Swindon service could then go via Melksham.

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8 hours ago, surfsup said:

 

With regards to Southampton - Bristol, I am surprised at this too. My thoughts are that this could mean the current Cardiff - Portsmouth service is split at Bristol Temple Meads which, while being great for performance, wouldn't be as great for the passenger. It could mean that more of the 158 fleet transfers across from GWR to SWR to cover the Portsmouth - Bristol section, while GWR operates Cardiff - Bristol with their HSTs. Or it could mean that SWR takes on more of the smaller stations while GWR runs an Express service (as we currently see between Salisbury and Southampton with GWR calling at Romsey and Southampton, SWR stopping in-between). 

I think the Portishead service (if and when it finally starts) is meant to be tied in to an enhanced service on the Severn Beach line, and also an improved local service between Bristol and Westbury. So maybe some tie-up there?

 

cheers

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12 hours ago, jcredfer said:

I can't see Okehampton passenger services being bothered too much by the Meldon freight movements, if they can manage to get the freight movements through Exeter St Davids.  Should anyone decide that a passenger service through to Meldon might be to some advantage, it isn't likely that would cause a timetable problem, although making profitable might be another matter.

 

Julian

 

 

I can’t see an extension of main line services to Meldon being needed either. I was suggesting that it might be possible to continue operating some form of heritage services, but on the Okehampton to Meldon section when it is not in use for freight, not going beyond Okehampton towards Exeter.

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The patronage on the Meldon passenger service would be very dependent upon weather and time of year. TOCs are simply not in that sort of business. As far as they are concerned, the Goretex brigade will be delighted to get to Okehampton, where walking and cycling opportunities abound, and Meldon would add very little inducement. 

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11 hours ago, surfsup said:

That slide certainly is an official one - It has come from the All Party Parliamentary Group on South Western Railway (@appgonswr) who's chair is Chris Loder MP. The slide itself, later uploaded to twitter was part of a recent presentation by Mark Hopwood  (South Western Railway MD) to the All Party Parliamentary Group Meeting on the SWR Franchise. 

 

So it's pretty official

I didn't mean that it's not official, just that it's a really early stage of deciding whether they'll do some/ all/ none of those things. It could well sink without trace at this stage.

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Trains to Meldon would surely just be because that's where the track finishes. There's no significant source or destination for traffic there.

 

Just having Okehampton back on the regular railway map would be a start, no matter whether it's SWR or GWR or Cross Country or ScotRail who run the service.

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