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Okehampton Railway re-opening


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1 hour ago, bgman said:

Okehampton ..... provides a springboard for beautiful Dartmoor

 

Yes it does but if the train is to win custom of that sort then there must also be a reasonable network of connecting bus services to destinations beyond.  No-one is going to come up to Okehampton for a trip to Dartmoor if they find themselves stuck almost a mile out of town with no ay of reaching Lydford Gorge or the towns and villages across the moor itself.  The Sunday Rover ticket has been withdrawn from sale because the bus network has itself been whittled away to almost nothing.  First are making a brave try this year with a limited Exeter - Tavistock service though you need to change buses somewhere to go right through and allow most of the day for it.  The Haytor Hoppa no longer serves Becka Falls or Manadon from Newton Abbot allegedly in order to make use of a bigger bus but that's half the traffic potential cut off.  On the occasions I used the Okehampton - Lydford - Tavistock bus I was almost the only passenger aboard making it wasteful rather than the asset it should have been.  

 

I don't have ready answers.  Dartmoor needs fewer cars.  The major towns around the moor get crowded and jammed regularly because of heavy traffic.  Alternatives exist but we shall need to do better than an alternate-hours train with a walk into town at the Okehampton end if we are to get anyone out of their car.  

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12 minutes ago, Gwiwer said:

 

Yes it does but if the train is to win custom of that sort then there must also be a reasonable network of connecting bus services to destinations beyond.  No-one is going to come up to Okehampton for a trip to Dartmoor if they find themselves stuck almost a mile out of town with no ay of reaching Lydford Gorge or the towns and villages across the moor itself. 

It could be a good way of getting to the Granite Trail and possibly continue all the way to Plymouth by bike.  

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2 hours ago, phil-b259 said:

Those days are however long gone - new build railways (which is what the Okehampton service effectively IS) are not in the business of catering for tiny passenger flows. They are there to transport significant numbers of people between large population centres - in this case Okehampton and Exeter both of which are linked by a high speed fully grade separated dual carriageway that outside of the summer months generally flows well and which makes it a lot harder for the railway to be successful. Adding in stops for small villages only hinders rails ability to compete....

This is exactly the issue I believe has been missed all along in another (station) reopening, that of St.Clears between Carmarthen and Whitland.  The route to West Wales is in a similar position, adding another stop (in the middle of a long 75mph section) just adds even more time to an already slow journey time from Pembrokeshire to Swansea and beyond.  Passenger numbers from stations West of Swansea have been dropping at up to 8%p.a for some years; adding another station on the route (the traffic at which is highly likely to be merely abstractive from the two stations that it's between) will not make the train more competitive.

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1 hour ago, Gwiwer said:

 

Yes it does but if the train is to win custom of that sort then there must also be a reasonable network of connecting bus services to destinations beyond.  No-one is going to come up to Okehampton for a trip to Dartmoor if they find themselves stuck almost a mile out of town with no ay of reaching Lydford Gorge or the towns and villages across the moor itself.  The Sunday Rover ticket has been withdrawn from sale because the bus network has itself been whittled away to almost nothing.  First are making a brave try this year with a limited Exeter - Tavistock service though you need to change buses somewhere to go right through and allow most of the day for it.  The Haytor Hoppa no longer serves Becka Falls or Manadon from Newton Abbot allegedly in order to make use of a bigger bus but that's half the traffic potential cut off.  On the occasions I used the Okehampton - Lydford - Tavistock bus I was almost the only passenger aboard making it wasteful rather than the asset it should have been.  

 

I don't have ready answers.  Dartmoor needs fewer cars.  The major towns around the moor get crowded and jammed regularly because of heavy traffic.  Alternatives exist but we shall need to do better than an alternate-hours train with a walk into town at the Okehampton end if we are to get anyone out of their car.  

 

 

The most likely situation regarding custom for the train service is people drive to Okehampton in their car to commute / go shopping in Exeter. People using the service to go the other way will be miniscule in comparison due to limited public transport options extending the lines reach and the infrequent train service.

 

The Waverly line does show that using connecting buses can extend the reach of the railway - but that line has a 30 minute frequency  taking out a lot of the anxiety over missed connections. However even with that the bulk of the travel is residents Galashiels / the borders heading to Edinburgh for the day - not people from Edinburgh residents going to Galashiels / the borders

 

 

In an ideal world it would be nice to think that an express bus / coach service from Okehampton onwards to Bude and Launceston would be provided - but given the excellent standard of the A30 between Exeter and Okehampton - I suspect that if people really wanted to make such a journey then they would prefer a direct coach service from Exeter thus minimising the need to change transport modes or miss connections (2hrs is a long time to wait if you have just missed a train)

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6 hours ago, Kris said:

I can't imagine that many would use a direct service from Yeoford to Okehampton even if it did exist. 

 A few years ago I made a summer Saturday trip up to Barnstaple and was quite surprised at the number of folk using the route as the 'Ale Trail' getting on and off to visit pubs along the route. That is the only time I have alighted at Yeoford (so far) as after visiting the Mare and Foal before walking to Copplestone for a pint there (that pub is now closed I believe). I think pub goers provide the reason for additional stops at Newton St Cyres on the Sunday service.

Since using the Sunday service to Okehampton about 5 years ago me and Mrs Rivercider have been back by car three times to stay in the town, There are a couple of decent pubs there.  

Whether a business case could be made based on pub goers is a different matter though.

 

cheers (hic)

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I was sure I'd read about changing the arrangement of the lines north of Crediton somewhere, now found it - Modem Railways July '21.

Resignalling Crediton and Eggesford pencilled in for Control Period 7 2024-2029. Main aim to shorten Exeter-Barnstaple times, but GWR MD would like the 2 lines north of Crediton restored to conventional up & down with the divergence at Coleford as it was in the past to give more resilience to timings. He also wants 2nd platform reinstated at Barnstaple as part of the scheme, and getting Barnstaple and Okehampton to be local transport hubs. Presumably then Yeoford will get separate up & down lines, but not sure how platforms will be arranged.

Same article says Okehampton trains should be hourly next year, but pathing will be "a challenge" with the current track layouts. "Devon Metro" scheme wants to extend Barnstaple services through Exeter Central to Honiton and possibly Axminster, but would need longer dynamic loops / double track.

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8 minutes ago, Ramblin Rich said:

I was sure I'd read about changing the arrangement of the lines north of Crediton somewhere, now found it - Modem Railways July '21.

Resignalling Crediton and Eggesford pencilled in for Control Period 7 2024-2029. Main aim to shorten Exeter-Barnstaple times, but GWR MD would like the 2 lines north of Crediton restored to conventional up & down with the divergence at Coleford as it was in the past to give more resilience to timings. He also wants 2nd platform reinstated at Barnstaple as part of the scheme, and getting Barnstaple and Okehampton to be local transport hubs. Presumably then Yeoford will get separate up & down lines, but not sure how platforms will be arranged.

Same article says Okehampton trains should be hourly next year, but pathing will be "a challenge" with the current track layouts. "Devon Metro" scheme wants to extend Barnstaple services through Exeter Central to Honiton and possibly Axminster, but would need longer dynamic loops / double track.

Was it on this website? https://dartmoorline.com

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15 minutes ago, Ramblin Rich said:

I was sure I'd read about changing the arrangement of the lines north of Crediton somewhere, now found it - Modem Railways July '21.

Resignalling Crediton and Eggesford pencilled in for Control Period 7 2024-2029. Main aim to shorten Exeter-Barnstaple times, but GWR MD would like the 2 lines north of Crediton restored to conventional up & down with the divergence at Coleford as it was in the past to give more resilience to timings. He also wants 2nd platform reinstated at Barnstaple as part of the scheme, and getting Barnstaple and Okehampton to be local transport hubs. Presumably then Yeoford will get separate up & down lines, but not sure how platforms will be arranged.

Same article says Okehampton trains should be hourly next year, but pathing will be "a challenge" with the current track layouts. "Devon Metro" scheme wants to extend Barnstaple services through Exeter Central to Honiton and possibly Axminster, but would need longer dynamic loops / double track.

There are recovered track sections stacked up at Barnstaple, which I believe are for the re-instatement of the second platform when it gets done.  The stacked up track can be seen in the distance here.

780025249_IMG_9968(2).JPG.32f9e0cca745d31e3dd77254ed6c90a4.JPG

A train from Exeter arrives formed of set 158747, 3/8/2021

 

cheers

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, Kris said:

Was it on this website? https://dartmoorline.com

No, as said, Modern Railways July this year.

The Dartmoor line website is rather nice but bit lacking in detail.

I'm hoping an acquaintance in GWR will tip me off as to when the service will start, I'd love to be on a first day train!

Edited by Ramblin Rich
Modern! not modem
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3 hours ago, phil-b259 said:

In an ideal world it would be nice to think that an express bus / coach service from Okehampton onwards to Bude and Launceston would be provided -

It has been done.  Changing road service legislation and local politics has effectively seen it off.  

 

When the railways closed Jennings of Bude was among the local operators who commenced replacement services partly based upon enhancing exiting local routes.  Their several-times-daily Bude - Okehampton - Exeter service was always worked by a good quality coach.  Bus service deregulation, commercial reality and the reluctance by both Devon and Cornwall councils to fund a cross-border service saw what had become a good network, developed by First as successors to Jennings and others, almost eradicated.  Bude - Exeter, numbered 629 by Devon County Council though the route number was never carried on the coaches, became First X9 with an Exeter - Okehampton - Launceston - Boscastle or Wadebridge X10 variant all of which were still run with coaches.  When First pulled out Western Greyhound stepped in and the X10 became the 510 using high quality double-deck buses.  The requirement to provide step-free access had forced what users saw as a downgrade from coaches to buses.  Coaches with wheelchair lifts remain few and far between.  When Western Greyhound ceased operations under contentious circumstances the 510, which had begun to generate some loyal long-distance business and offered through fares from the national rail network, was discontinued.  Cornwall Council funded a very minimal local service between Camelford and Launceston only to cover a section which would otherwise have been unserved.  Connections with the residual Exeter services didn't exist.  Everything operated in isolation.  

 

Fast forward to today.  Go Cornwall have a contract to provide a revised route 10 between Launceston, Wadebridge and Bodmin once again offering something like a 2-hourly headway but not plugged into the Okehampton / Exeter end of things.  Stagecoach runs the Exeter - Okehampton - Bude service as the 6 with a handful of trips diverting to Launceston as 6A but not with direct onward connections.  Once again buses are used often as not with thin seats, rattling interiors, ineffective heating / ventilation and generally not a terribly pleasant environment in which to spend a couple of hours.  As has always been the case they don't serve Okehampton station leaving intending transfer passengers with that near-mile walk (which is up a long hill towards the railway) but which would add a time penalty of around 15 minutes to the bus journey - upsetting the existing timetable and duty rosters significantly by adding 30 minutes to a round trip - for perhaps little traffic.  

 

Again I don't have a ready answer.  Shuttle buses meeting trains with ample time to connect both into and out of the rail service would be great.  Would they be used?  Who would pay the bulk of the cost?  They couldn't be provided on a commercial basis unless as a part of the GWR rail service included with the train fare.  Every change of service has the potential to lose business.  Customers are anxious about making critical connections, may be unfamiliar with where to wait for buses and how to get from one stop to another (where needed) plus there is the question of how to pay.  Some buses remain cash-only, most take cards as well, some are card-only, some give change others give vouchers and some give nothing.  How is the intending traveller to know all of this?  These are the disincentives to multimodal travel anywhere - not just in and around Okehampton.  But when a railway is about to reopen serving a town most of which lies beyond a comfortable walking distance from the station then just returning the trains will not be enough.  Those who have cars can reach Exeter via the A30 in under an hour at most times which competes with train on time and beats it for convenience.  Those who live closer to Okehampton town centre can use the bus should they wish although it no longer whisks you along the current A30 but uses the old A30 route through the intermediate villages; it does however still reach Exeter city centre in a fraction over an hour.  

 

It will be interesting to see how this reopening fares.  Will the return to rail be as strong as in other areas such as Alloa and Tweedbank?  The recently re-opened Welsh valley lines seem to be very much quieter than those in Scotland and haven't been fanfared as unexpected successes.  My trips to Ebbw Vale and Maesteg have been on almost-empty trains and long before Covid was affecting loadings.  Will a meaningful proportion of current users switch from bus to rail and if so what will be the response of the bus company?  Improve their quality to win back business or cut trips due to loss of revenue?  Or possibly to actively promote a series of routes out of Okehampton which serve the station and offer connections to nearby and more distant places once served by the trains?  

 

One thing is certain.  I shall be down to make a return-to-Okehampton trip as soon as possible.  I'm afraid GWR will gain very little from that as I hold staff travel entitlements meaning it will cost me and benefit them precisely nothing.  But it's a statistic for the bean-counters when they check how many people are travelling.  

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I should add, the notion of a Okehampton travel hub seems to hinge on a new station at the east of town, where the line passes under the old A30. Modern Railways state work is planned to start but I remember some issues about line gradient at this point.

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1 hour ago, Gwiwer said:

Again I don't have a ready answer.  Shuttle buses meeting trains with ample time to connect both into and out of the rail service would be great.  Would they be used?  Who would pay the bulk of the cost?  They couldn't be provided on a commercial basis unless as a part of the GWR rail service included with the train fare.  Every change of service has the potential to lose business.  Customers are anxious about making critical connections, may be unfamiliar with where to wait for buses and how to get from one stop to another (where needed) plus there is the question of how to pay.  

I remember a SWT General Manager speaking at our local RCTS nearly 20 years ago, was asked about improved bus links to stations.  He was clear that they had considered supporting various specific routes, but the economics were usually poor (they need to be very cheap to encourage people to use them).  However, the business case for building a bigger car park was usually indicated by the new spaces being filled within weeks of opening.  The latent demand was for car-rail commuting/leisure travel, not bus-rail-bus travel. 

There is also the inescapable issue in rural areas that car ownership is very high (because there isn't frequent public transport and it is unrealistic to expect it to ever be such).  Train travel needs to be competitive to appeal to the majority who have a choice, not to the minority who don't.

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6 minutes ago, Northmoor said:

.....  Train travel needs to be competitive to appeal to the majority who have a choice, not to the minority who don't.

And that's the truth for any public transport system. If we're going to transition away from cars in any numbers*, all public transport needs to compete on price, availability and ambience.

 

*Even if everyone changes to electric cars, it won't ease congestion problems! And charging 50 cars will still use more energy than 1 bus....

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Agree wholeheartedly with comments above Rich.  The other laughable element to train travel right now is the difficulty and capacity for transporting bicycles.  Barnstaple (Tarka Trail and routes onto Exmoor) and Okehampton could and should both offer Public transport options for starting bike tours by train.

 

As it is, limited capacity has certainly frustrated this potential traveller. 

 

Have sampled the 'pleasure' of transporting bikes by train over most of the country. HSTs had capacity for about 6 (pre booked) bikes behind the power car. 

 

Voyager from Llandudno and Pendolino to Glasgow - let's just say I'm glad my touring bike is an old nail.  As was the mental situation of my bike being delivered by Transit van to Euston while me and friends overnighted down from Aberdeen on the sleeper.  The tangle of bikes when the driver opened the rear doors was a 'hoot'.

 

Best bike capacity was in DVT on the 225s up to York. 

 

Great that Okehampton is Reopening and will offer opportunity for walks out along the Granite Way up to Sourton Tor, then back via Meldon reservoir (lovely walk). Always sees me gazing wistfully at the remains of the formation of the branch off to Bude.

Suspect most traffic will be to Exeter.

 

More could be done to support active travel.  Scotrail have the right idea with their stock out to the west Highlands - Highland Explorer.

 

When we did our first cycle tour in Devon it needed nifty work getting them off at Plymouth. Toured up to Mary Tavy, then to Instow via Granite Way, Okehampton and Hatherleigh.  Then to Bratton Fleming.  Then to Tiverton.   Subsequent tour started at North Petherton to Chard - Chard to Dolton via Honiton and Crediton - Dolton to North Molton - North Molton over the Moor to Dulverton then Stogumber to Goathurst and back to North Petherton.

 

Best regards

 

Matt W

 

Edited by D826
Accuracy
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Is the buffet at Okehampton station still in business? Sherry and I stopped by there a few years ago and it was full of cyclists. The atmosphere was rather different from the Lemon Tree-type buffets on the national network, and more like the buffet I used to enjoy at Tenterden Town, really. 

 

We did enjoy an Okehampton-Exeter round trip before Covid, and will do so more often when the service resumes, I'm sure. Yes, we have to drive all the way from Whiddon Down. In our '70s, catching the #6 bus and walking up that hill is not feasible if we want to see the next day!

 

That D826 cycle tour made me feel tired just to read it! Mind you, the last regular cycling I did was on early turn week in Redhill Control, and that office moved to Croydon in 1969. My bike and I went back on the train to Deepdene, and I then had the fun of getting it down the staircase to the A24, albeit then only a short pedal home to Deepdene Vale.

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2 hours ago, D826 said:

Best bike capacity was in DVT on the 225s up to York. 

 

I did use these semi-regularly, with a bike, for a few years and they were brilliant. The ECML HSTs were not so great as there were fewer bike spaces and the bike had to be stood on end and secured by its front wheel, which also meant removing panniers if these were being carried. A slight disadvantage in both cases was that the bike space was not accessible from the rest of the train, so you needed to walk down to the end coach beforehand and make sure that somebody let you into the DVT to get the bike out - I never really had a problem with this though, I just wonder if anyone has ever failed to retrieve their bike in time. I haven’t taken a bike on the class 800s but I understand that they aren’t as good. I did take one on a Pendolino a few years ago but can’t really remember much about the space available.

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6 minutes ago, rodent279 said:

Is this a government "restores", or a real world "restores"?

 

I thought there had been timetabled services to Oke in the last half century?

Indeed there have but only in summer Sundays

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  • AY Mod changed the title to Okehampton Railway re-opening

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