Issue 17, Summer 2004
Table of Contents Editorial From the Chairman
I know comparisons are odious, but I don't think any of our readers, having read certain articles in this issue, will be able to resist the temptation to compare the facilities and services we enjoy on this line, with those described in certain articles in this issue. We appear to be the EU's poor relations in railway terms, despite the fact that our economy is outperforming the other member statesâ€”what a situation to be in for the country where it all startedâ€”and we are now going to experience another round of tinkering with the infrastructure.
The New First Great Western Timetable Jazz Train - Friday 30th July Continental Branch Line Operation How much is your station used? Taktfahrplan - an idea whose time is coming? First are First with Integration Help Wanted Fares Maze Hindsight, Foresight, and Guesswork Station Gardens Competition Barnstaple 150 The Joys of Country Living A Spanish Interlude
A further article within highlights a radical approach (for the UK) to timetabling, but don't think that we have forgotten our roots, our main concern, is still, and always will be, the North Devon line and its effect on the communities it serves. We must, however, set that in the wider context of developments both near and far in the hope that we might move in a direction that will enable the service provider (whoever that is likely to be, and more on that in this issue) to give us a facility that provides all that is required and that we and our visitors can be happy to use.
Towards 2006 (option 1) Towards 2006 (option 2) News Update 'Twas Ever Thus Readers Write Membership Matters
Despite my hope expressed in the last issue that I would hear from you with your opinions, I New Members have not been inundated with letters vehemently disagreeing with the content of any of the Annual General Meeting articles, or for that matter agreeingâ€”not even any comment praising or castigating the summer Committee Meetings timetable!. I know from reading various newspaper's letters pages that there is some feeling out (Members Welcome) there, yet not apparently from within the membership. This magazine is circulated quite widely, even to those in the industry, so comments here may well be picked up; so once again I hope to hear from you to fill that letters page, or better still, are there any prospective articles out there ready to come in? Enjoy the rest of the summer. Andy Hedges
From the Chairman Two years ago, somewhat reluctantly, I became Acting Chairman of our Group. Later, I was elected as Chairman. When one undertakes a role like this, some other things must be put to one side, for there is much more to it than presiding over meetings. Now I must give more time to those other things. Hence, while I will continue to work for the Group in a more minor capacity, this is my final contribution to our magazine as Chairman. May I thank all those who have been so supportive and then offer a few valedictory observations. The past two years have been turbulent. I want to mention two things that have contributed to this state and then to offer a speculation about the future. All three are relevant to the purposes and activities of our Group. First, then, the committee itself. It is not so long ago that many, observing the departure of some deeply-committed members and the
difficulty of recruiting replacements, anticipated the demise of the committee and even of the Group itself. That has not happened. On the contrary, most former members have stayed on, with all that this means for continuity. Meanwhile, new members have joined us, bringing with them talents, insights and energies that enrich our work. In fact, I believe that the committee we have had in the past year has been exceptionally strong. On behalf of the Group as a whole, I would like to thank each and every one of its members for the work they have put in. Fortunate indeed is the group that has such people within its ranks, and doubly so when they are willing to continue in future. Second is the affair that, for a while at least, threatened to split, not only the committee, but the Group itself. I refer, of course, to the advent of this summer's timetable for the line. For some, while inadequate in some details, it represented the largest step yet seen towards the kind of service the Group has been advocating. For others, it was the end of civilisation as they knew it. There seemed to be no way to reconcile such differences. Yet, far from being a calamity, the new timetable has been the catalyst for what I believe to have been the most thorough-going re-examination ever of the committee's views about the service the North Devon line should offer. The outcome is our consultation paper advocating a shift towards a service based on railheads. I do not anticipate that it will please everyone. I do not even know whether you, our membership as a whole, will endorse it. But I very much hope that you will, for here, for the first time, we have a vision of a timetable that would allow rail to do what it does best: namely, provide a service for the area as a whole that is fast, frequent and regular, and which takes into account the circumstances in which it must operate, not the least of which are demographic and financial. It gives us a clear aspiration for the long run. More immediately, it should give shape and consistency to our discussions with Wessex Trains about the detail of the timetable while we are getting there. Most significantly, it appears that the operating company is warming to our proposals. We really have something worth arguing for, and I must express the gratitude of the whole committee to Patrick Adams and John Phillips for the parts they have played in drafting this proposal. Now to the future; I see two things on the horizon that are of particular interest. One is the notion of 'community rail' (see our last issue for details). It can mean many things, but the one thing they have in common is the principle of giving communities a greater voice in the operation of rail services. But a pitfall may lie ahead. Re-franchising may mean that the increasingly constructive dialogue we have had with the local train operating company is lost. We shall need to do all we can to ensure that this does not happen. The other stems from the fact that community rail is not a novel idea. On the contrary, it has been applied with considerable success elsewhere, not least in Germany. This is a reminder that the most dynamic periods in British rail development have been characterised by a willingness on the part of all concerned to leaven practice here with ideas gleaned from abroad. So, what is the next 'big idea'? My money is on Taktfahrplan. It may not come immediately, but as we move towards regular interval services, the foundations are already being laid. Think of what this could do, not just for the North Devon line, but for public transport everywhere! Have we the open-mindedness to welcome it? See another article in this issue for a hint of what it involves... John Gulliver Chairman
The New First Great Western Timetable Soon once again it will be time to dig out the old anorak, retrieve the dog-eared notebook, sharpen the coloured pencils, fill the Thermos, make the Marmite sandwiches, and set out for platform 5 at Paddington. The December timetable has been published, and even off peak there will be forty-eight arrivals and departures an hour to watch and record. Once you have gained your I.K Gricer intermediate award you may gravitate to Waterloo where over one hundred arrivals and departures an hour will provide a stern test for your I.K Gricer final certificate. First Great Western provide an hourly fast service Monday to Friday to the West of England at xx:05 between 09:05 and 16:05, after that there are the 17:03 and 18:03. The fastest trains arrive in Exeter at xx:08, the others, which call at intermediate stations, stagger their arrival times between xx:17 and xx:30. These various times make no difference as they will all connect with the xx:51 or thereabouts to Barnstaple, giving a journey time of about 3他 hours. In addition, there is a completely new service terminating at Exeter and leaving Paddington at 08:33, 12:33, and 16:33. This stops at Slough, Reading, Theale, Thatcham, Newbury, Hungerford,
Pewsey, Westbury, Castle Cary, and Taunton; (the 16:33 also calls at Tiverton). For the first time in some years there is now a direct connection between Hungerford and the smaller stations to the east, and Pewsey and the western stations. These trains arrive at Exeter at either xx.09 or xx:13. The 08:33 gives a poor connection because of our two hourly service in the middle of the day. The best is the 16:33 which arrives at Exeter at 19.13 with the Barnstaple train leaving at 19.19. I would imagine that these trains terminating at Exeter will be lightly loaded so it would be pleasant to think that the fares for this more leisurely journey would be cheaper! For those of us who can reach Exeter or Taunton, four trains reach Paddington by 09:43, and three of these also stop at Tiverton, the earliest being the 05:55 from Exeter which arrives at 08:32. The 06:42 from Barnstaple connects with the Golden Hind and arrives at Paddington at 10:00. For those who prefer to travel more cheaply the 08:42 from Exeter arrives at 11:18. The remaining morning connections are unsatisfactory, giving only 3-5 minutes to transfer from platform 1 to platform 5 at St Davids. The best is the 11:54 from Barnstaple with a 10 minute connection, arriving at Paddington at 15:05 and giving a journey time of 3¼ hours. Perhaps the pleasantest journey is to use the new semi-fast service. This leaves Exeter at 11:35, 15:35, and 19:41. One has the luxury of joining a train at its starting point; which has arrived 26 minutes earlier and should be available for boarding as soon as it has been prepared. On a personal note, I occasionally travel to Theale, so with this service it will be convenient to travel direct without a change at Newbury. Tiverton Parkway has a two hourly service from Paddington until 14:48, and then roughly an hourly service, with the last train at 00:24. Going to Paddington there is roughly an hourly service until 12:16, and then two hourly until 18:17, followed by the 19:54 and the 20:48. Hugh Butterworth
Jazz Train - Friday 30th July Didn't we have a lovely time the day we went on the jazz train! Yes we did! - the 'Select Four' delighted us all at this well supported event, the on board bar, skilfully managed by John Lewis and Paul Rendell, did a roaring trade. Travellers joining us at Exeter from other lines were astonished, several asking if this was a regular Friday night event. Thank you Wessex Trains, Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, and particularly the Select Four. See you (bring a friend) on Friday 27th August for jazz and Friday 24th September for folk— only £5 return, good value, good music, good fun.! Geraldine Sainsbury
Continental Branch Line Operation Business recently took me up to Peenemünde on Germany's Baltic coast; this is the site where Werner von Braun and his teams developed the "Doodlebug" (V1) and the V2 rockets in the Second World War. There are not many people living up there (which made it a good choice for rocketry experiments!), and even today it rarely sees foreign tourists. Peenemünde is on a branch line on the end of a branch line, yet its service was a knockout for those of us bound for Barnstaple. In an area where few speak English the timetable was as clear as a bell—a train every 30 minutes! I'm not enough of a technician to be able to tell you what the two car train was, so I give you a drawing:
Peenemunde Drawing 1 As well as the comments under the previous drawing the train also carried many bicycles on board, as can be seen in these drawings:
Peenemunde Drawing 2
Peenemunde Drawing 3
On this remote line: The ballast was clean (not a weed in sight) The sleepers were concrete The rails were welded and to top it all off, at the key country stations the local bus was sitting there waiting for the train. In spite of Germany's reunification this is a poor rural area in what used to be East Germany, yet its rail service was truly first class—and my day "Travel Anywhere” ticket cost me only €15, about £10. I'm sadly sure that we are many long years from any service like that in Devon. I do not know how Germany finances its railways—perhaps someone wiser in NDRUG could add a line or two telling us how they do it. Jed Falby
How much is your station used? Wessex trains have published passenger figures for 2003 and they make dispiriting reading. The figures are important because they are the last under the old timetable. Station
Barnstaple 178,865 Crediton 21,953 Eggesford 11,114 Umberleigh 9,980 Yeoford 7,495 Morchard Rd 4,770 Lapford 4,120 King's Nympton 3,895 Newton St Cyres 1,059 Copplestone 1,058 Portsmouth Arms 571 Chapelton 509
Trains Passengers per day per day 22 492 22 61 22 32 22 27 17 21 14 13 22 11 19 11 11 3 12 3 8 2 16 1
Passengers per train 22.4 2.7 1.4 1.2 1.2 0.9 0.5 0.6 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.1
Footfall means a passenger using the station, so that a return journey would count as two footfalls. A passenger travelling on a return journey, say, between Eggesford and Morchard Road would account for 4 footfalls, 2 at each station. No station comes out satisfactorily from this survey. Barnstaple provides 72% of the passengers and 90% of the revenue; it has a catchment area of supposedly 99,000, though this figure is somewhat suspect as it includes the Combe Martin/Lynton area which probably looks to Tiverton Parkway. Nevertheless, considering how many visitors are included in the footfall figure, it is clear that for many North Devonians the railway is completely irrelevant. The conurbation of Instow, Fremington, Bideford, Northam, Appledore, and Westward Ho! now has a population which is greater than all the parishes that contain the remaining 11 stations and it is growing fast. How can this population be tapped? When the roadworks connected with the Downstream Bridge are complete, buses will be able to use the station forecourt and hopefully keep more easily to their timetables, but this still remains a major problem. Crediton has seen a decline of over 20% in footfall, but hopefully use of the Park and Ride facility will grow as congestion in Exeter increases. The use of Eggesford, quite frankly, surprised me, as there was no indication of this volume of traffic on the trains that I use. Presumably there is commuter traffic from places like Chawleigh and Chulmleigh. Is there any way in which this can be increased? The shortsightedness of the British Rail Property Board in not retaining any part of the extensive sidings for car parking is all too apparent. Umberleigh is the most used station affected by the cuts in services under the new timetable. As its neighbours, Chapelton and Portsmouth Arms, are so lightly used, is there a case for making it a railhead station with as full a service as possible? Its catchment
area supposedly includes Torrington; how do the residents of that area travel to other parts of the country? Do they use Umberleigh in preference to Barnstaple? Yeoford is a special case. It is the only station not on the main Barnstaple to Exeter road and its inaccessibility is shown by the slightly higher proportion of the population who actually travel by train. Unfortunately its catchment area is small. Lapford, Morchard Road, and Copplestone are less used than they were. This may be due to the bus service provided by Turners from Chulmleigh to Exeter, with, for example, Copplestone being served by no less than 14 buses per day to Exeter. The bus service is cheaper, takes no longer (the railway takes a big loop through Yeoford), and is more convenient as it passes through the centre of the village. It is difficult to see much future for this station except before and particularly after the hours during which the buses run. Ideally there should be interavailability of tickets, but the numbers are so small that probably no one thinks that this is worthwhile. Chapelton is the least used station of all. If a family of four happen to travel once a week to Barnstaple they would account for 208 of the 509 footfalls. If there were a couple commuting five times a week in Barnstaple for 48 weeks a year they would account for 480 footfalls, leaving only 29 footfalls for our family of four who want to visit Barnstaple each week! Hugh Butterworth
Taktfahrplan - an idea whose time is coming? Taktfahrplan? Surely not a word much used in Barnstaple (although, for all I know, they may speak of little else in Morchard Bishop)? Anyway, doesn't it sound just a bit German? Well, yes, it does, although it might be better to regard it as Swiss-German. Until recently, as it happens, few people in Switzerland - where German is one of the main languages - had heard of Taktfahrplan (say it like 'tact-far-plan') either. Yet, within a short time of its introduction, just about everyone in that land of lakes and mountains knew about it. For my part, I think that it's the best new idea in public transport in the last 50 years. And I don't see why we shouldn't have it here. Indeed, if we did, public transport would be revolutionised. We might even see here the astonishing change that has happened in Switzerland. There, as in so many other places, people were until recently deserting their trains and their buses. Increasingly, the car was king. Yet now, it's the other way around. Car use is falling. Public transport is in the ascendant. And Taktfahrplan is at the heart of this astonishing reversal. So, what is it? With the aid of a fictitious example, but based on places you know, let me try to explain. Picture Exeter St Davids station. It's five-to-ten in the morning. On each platform, groups of people are waiting. Yet there isn't a train in sight. At 09.57, the branch train arrives from Barnstaple. Many of its passengers alight. Others, bound for Central or Exmouth, stay aboard. They are joined by some of the people who had been waiting on the platform. At the same time, a train arrives from Exmouth, Barnstaple-bound. Some passengers get off. Others stay on board. They are joined by people from the platform. At 09:58, an intercity train from Plymouth, Paddington-bound, arrives. Simultaneously, at another platform (you will be pleased to know), an intercity from Paddington, bound for Plymouth and Cornwall, pulls in. From each, many passengers alight. Some head for the Barnstaple train, some for the Exmouth. Others leave the station for the buses or taxis on the forecourt, or to proceed on foot. Yet others, who have just arrived on the branch trains, or simply been waiting on the platforms, board the London service, or the Plymouth. At 10:02, the intercities depart for London and Plymouth respectively. A minute later, the Exmouth and Barnstaple trains leave. Again, the tracks are empty. There are still people on the platforms, but they're in no hurry. Some wander into the cafeteria, others to W.H. Smith. Many just drift away. For almost an hour, all is quiet. Then, as 11:00 approaches, the pattern of arrivals and departures begins to repeat itself. And again towards noon, and towards 12:00 and 14:00. And so on, throughout the afternoon and evening, until the last trains of the day arrive and depart. Meanwhile, further down the line at Plymouth, a similar pattern is being repeated, only there the branch runs to Gunnislake, not Barnstaple or Exmouth, or perhaps on alternate hours via Liskeard to Looe.
And there you have it. Trains running at regular intervals, throughout the day, on both the mainline and the branches, and in both directions, with the down trains like a mirror image of the up. Time, the regular beat of time, all through the day, is a key elements of this approach. That's where the Takt bit comes in. For Takt means time, in the sense of beat, or rhythm. For those interested in things like this, a Taktstock is a conductor's baton. Imagine some grand conductor (Fat Controller?) somewhere, keeping the trains to their beat, throughout the whole system. But there's more to it than trains running at regular intervals. Trains connect with one another, and in all directions. Get on a train at Barnstaple, or at Umberleigh, or wherever, and you know there will be connections at St David's for London and for Plymouth and Cornwall. You'll know you won't have to wait for ages. You won't even have to study the timetable to find out when they will be. Here then, is the second principle of Taktfahrplan. Everything connects. And because everything connects, your travelling, your journeying that's the fahr part of the word - is easy. Should beat the traffic jams on the M5, don't you think? The third principle is that a number of stations are designated as the nodal points of the system, the places where everything connects. In my imaginary example, the nodal points are St Davids and Plymouth. In real life, of course, there would be many more, each redesigned where needed to facilitate the interchanges described. The point is, however, that, with the carefully-timed trains that link them, they add up to a basically simple system, one easily understood by users and operators alike. In short, a plan. No prizes for guessing which part of the word signifies this part of the overall idea! All pie-in-the-sky, I hear you say: a timetable anorak's fantasy. Even if it works in Switzerland, it couldn't possibly be done here: our railways are much too complicated. Now I admit that, in my imaginary example of Taktfahrplan, I have left out all sorts of things. Trains don't just run to Paddington and to Plymouth, to Exmouth and to Barnstaple, for example. There are Bristol and Birmingham, and many more places besides. Isn't Waterloo rather big and Clapham Junction rather complicated? Don't we have to squeeze all our Cornwall-bound trains over Brunel's bridge at Saltash? And what about freight? And so on. To these objections, I would make three responses. First, of course my example is simplified. But it's only like this because I want to show how Taktfahrplan works and what the ideas behind it are. In principle, the Swiss say, it can be extended to any system. Moreover, it can be integrated with bus and other public transport operations, too. Theirs is! Second, while Switzerland is a smaller country than ours, we should not underestimate the complexity of its railways. It has state and private railways (many of the latter in the hands of local authorities). It has a much higher proportion of single track than we do, and gradients steeper and longer than anything we have here. Then there's the little matter of much of the network being narrow gauge, most of which is tied into the Taktfahrplan as well, even down to sharing many stations. And some of those stations are pretty big. The main station at Zurich, for instance, has 22 platforms. As far as I know, only Waterloo in this country tops this. Freight? Don't forget that freight traffic, including through international traffic, is heavy on Swiss railways (Switzerland being one of those sensible countries that insists that heavy freight goes by rail, not road. How do they do it? By building freight traffic into the Taktfahrplan, of course!). Finally, don't think that Taktfahrplan is operated only in Switzerland. Finland rewrote its timetable on its principles in 2002. Denmark and the Netherlands are working towards them. In Germany, as in the Pfalz area, which I have come to know well, the L채nder (roughly equivalent to regional governments) are increasingly adopting the approach for the train and bus services they sponsor. So, far from accepting that Taktfahrplan could not happen here, I say that it needs to be brought in with all possible speed. It's an idea whose time is coming fast, and little would do so much to put passengers' needs first as turning over to it. John Gulliver
First are First with Integration When the new timetable was published we contacted First Group who run the services in North Devon and asked if the first buses from Bideford and Ilfracombe could be brought forward to connect with the 06.42 am from Barnstaple. Not only did First do this, but it also arranged that the Ilfracombe service provided an hourly bus direct to Barnstaple Railway Station. This was timed to arrive at xx.47 and leave immediately after the arrival of the train.
We have asked Wessex to include details of the Ilfracombe service in the down timetable, but we have not made any request for inclusion in the timetable which shows departures from Barnstaple. This is because of the difficulties in negotiating the congested traffic in the town From personal observation, the answer to the question, "Do Ilfracombe buses connect with the train?" is "some doâ€”some don't". Many intending passengers are relying on connections at Exeter and the only reliable way of ensuring the connection is to catch the bus that runs an hour earlier. This is still a great help, particularly for those with heavy luggage. So we now have the first example of rail and bus integration in North Devon; hopefully we shall see many more when the downstream bridge and all buses from west of Barnstaple stop at the station forecourt. Hugh Butterworth
Help Wanted I am sorry to advise that we no longer have the services of David Crick as our Treasurer. Having served the group in this capacity for the last four years, David felt that it was time to pass the responsibility on to someone new - all good things must come to an end after all! On behalf of the committee and all the membership, I would like to thank David for the effort that he has put in over the past years in keeping us on the straight and narrow (financially speaking!), in what is an essential, yet often overlooked, part of the group's affairs. More than this, we should acknowledge the unspectacular, but vital, role he has played in looking after the vending machine at Barnstaple station. This has provided a service that travellers welcome, helped to keep us in the public eye, and contributed significantly to our financial well-being. David, we are all grateful to you. Thank you! Now we must look for someone else from the membership to step into David's shoes, at least with regard to the treasurer's part (someone else is taking on the vending machine role!). Anyone who feels that he or she is able and willing to do this should contact either Andy Hedges (who has generously offered to hold the fort for the moment) or me. Our addresses are inside the back cover. Please note that the full support of the committee will be given to the new incumbent. Meanwhile, I've warned the postman to expect an avalanche of mail! John Gulliver
Fares Maze A little known ticket is the Group Save, which allows either three or four adults to travel together for the price of two. As always there are restrictions, but it is always worth asking whether your group qualifies. Sometimes children may be included at a flat fare of ÂŁ1. Thus from Barnstaple to Exeter four people can travel for ÂŁ4.29 each. Hugh Butterworth
Hindsight, Foresight, and Guesswork Hindsight is one of the few things in life which I have been really good at. Foresight is much more elusive and can easily degenerate into guesswork with variable consequences. Warwickshire County Council are keen to see Rugby's new western relief road started as soon as possible; however it wishes to ensure that the road does not breach the formation of the former railway line to Southam (which originally continued to Leamington
Spa). We do not know whether the council's foresight will eventually prove to be guesswork, but it is certainly to be congratulated on its initiative. Compare this with Devon County Council's approach to the Barnstaple western by-pass and the Bideford line, particularly when you are taking an hour to travel the nine miles from Bideford to Barnstaple along the link road, a journey which you might, in twenty year's time, have done by train in twelve minutes. Hugh Butterworth
Station Gardens Competition Alas, there was insufficient interest to resurrect the station garden competition for the year, and time was also against us, hovever thanks must go to Jean Hiscox at Newton St Cyres for continuing with the displays there (shame we don't often get the chance to admire!); and to the Friends of Crediton Station for the displays at Crediton (more elsewhere in this issue). Hopefully 2005 will see a new dawn for the competition, so anyone who would like to take a pride in their local station, please drop me a line at the address inside the back cover. Andy Hedges
Barnstaple 150 1854 was a memorable year in many ways; Florence Nightingale laboured in the Crimea, the first mountain railway began operating in Austria...nearer home Shapland and Petter started the business which still operates today...and on 12th July, amid tremendous celebrations, the railway came to Barnstaple. The contractor and surveyor involved was Thomas Brassey, one of the foremost men in his field, surveyor of over 6500 miles of line including the Great Northern and the Paris—Le Havre. 150 years almost to the day, and following on from a superb month long exhibition by staff at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, a partial re-enactment of the original celebrations took place under the auspices of the Town Council. Led by the St John Ambulance Youth Band, town councillors, visiting dignitaries, townsfolk, and Heritage Centre volunteers and staff, in civic robes or Victorian finery, processed to the station. Replica banners of those carried in 1854 emphasised the day's historic significance. Stalls, including rail memorabilia, a hog roast, and our own NDRUG, had already been set up in the station car park. The sun shone on the festivities, and the Cedars showband entertained us. Andrew Griffiths, Richard Burningham, and colleagues distributed souvenirs and sold commemorabilia from their balloon festooned caravan, while the Mayor unveiled a plaque and welcomed the "Tarka Belle”. Well, what of the NDRUG stall? - John Gulliver, turning up trumps yet again, had prepared a colourful montage of 12 attractive photos taken at points (no not those points!) along the line. Five Devon RailCards, generously donated by Wessex Trains, were the prizes for the five out of the hat to correctly identify any six photos and give the name of the nearest station. Congratulations to the winners, two ladies and three men. The stall attracted a good deal of interest and we were continuously busy. At this juncture I may say that a few more pairs of hands would have been welcome to help distribute our leaflets and fly the flag. Let us continue support for Wessex Trains and echo the sentiments expressed on one of the original 1854 banners: "MAY THE ENTERPRISE OF THE SHAREHOLDERS OF THE NORTH DEVON RAILWAY BE CROWNED WITH SUCCESS” Geraldine Sainsbury
The Joys of Country Living
We are fortunate indeed to have a local bus service, two in the morning (both going, none coming back – don't ask me to explain the logic of that!), one in the afternoon (coming back), and one each way on Saturday, Sunday being a day of rest, particularly for the bus company. The local train service though does much better, five each way in the morning, the same in the afternoon, and two each way in the evening, the only problem is...they don't stop! I had reconciled myself to the situation that my nearest station did not have a train service (one train a day, except after 5 pm when you don't want to use it, and even if you did you wouldn't get back, does not constitute a train service). I had therefore started to use my second nearest station with eight available trains in the morning, four each way and the same in the afternoon, and even three each way in the evening. Everything was going well and it was convenient to use, even for long journeys via Exeter where I knew I could get back to the same station as my car, that is until May arrived. Presumably having taken a leaf out of the bus company's little book of operations there are now six available trains in the morning (four one way and two the other – the two being only an hour apart – more perverse logic!) and two each way in the afternoon (an hour apart one way and two hours apart the other *!?!*). There is a full service in the evening though – every train stops; such a shame you can't get back from anywhere if you use them. All this results in service gaps of three hours and four hours one way and a gap of seven hours the other, completely unusable if you have to leave the car at the station. So Wessex's loss of revenue is matched by an increase for Apcoa Parking who I now pay to park at Exeter—one of many I think. One case in point on the missing stops; recently number two daughter was coming back from Waterloo (cheaper for students that way) arriving in Exeter at around 11.45, but the Barnstaple line's two hourly service in the middle of the day goes at ten to the odd hours so an hour's wait ensued. The journey was only as far as Eggesford, which in that part of the day is now the nearest station with a service. Had I not been available with the 'taxi' it would have been a journey all the way to Barnstaple in the hope that there was enough time to get to the bus station (21 minutes allowed) for the sole afternoon bus. Hopefully this lamentable state of affairs will be remedied in the next timetable change, if not, it is the car all the time—it can be relied on. Andy Hedges
A Spanish Interlude During the last week in May my wife and I flew to the Costa Del Sol to celebrate our birthdays, which are close together that month. Not having a car we stumbled on a local rail line (not very well publicised) about 30 km long and with three main stations. It was mainly single track with about half a dozen good passing loops, but on this ran a good frequency of over 60 trains each way daily between 5.30am and midnight. Between the main stations there were seven unstaffed but very clean, well signed halts (no toilet facilities though!) There were similarities to London Underground operation, except the power was from overhead and it was 80—90% above ground. Spanish Railway Station El Ferrocarril Estaciona (trans: the Iron Rail Station) Picture: Andrew Tummon The three main stations at Malaga, Torremolinos, and Fuengirola utilised turnstile type barriers, fares being a little cheaper than here, and the four journeys we made were all reliable and punctual, with a line speed of 80kph (50 mph), in stock that was secure and clean; the units themselves being quite similar to those in use locally here. The provision of information was excellent, with on time announcements in Spanish and English giving direction of travel, and times, together with a warning of fines if caught travelling without a ticket. Most of the route was a mile from the coast and attractions, and while buses and taxis were plentiful, there was no real
attempt at proper interchange facilities. The halts served various communities along the line, there was even one for Malaga Airport which is about 3 miles from that city. The service was well patronised as you can imagine being a tourist area, although I'm sure that many locals used the service to commute to and from work in the hotels,etc. Security staff were present on board, but this didn't deter one lad from spraying graffiti on a train we were on whilst waiting in a passing loop in the middle of nowhere. The authorities must arrange regular cleaning though as all the trains we saw were shiny and clean. Andrew Tummon
Towards 2006 (option 1) Alison Forster, Managing Director (First Great Western and First Great Western Link), writes: Everyone at First Great Western and First Great Western Link is now actively working towards winning the new Greater Western franchise which will run from 2006. The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) has said that the new franchise will combine both of these franchises as well as the Wessex franchise. It is expected to run for 7 years and will combine high speed services, commuter services and branch line services. FirstGroup plc, our parent company, believes it has what it takes to win this franchise. It has a proven record of delivery across the region already, as well as strong evidence of turning around performance problems and improving customer service. We have proved that we can efficiently and effectively integrate two franchises when First Great Western Link joined the First family at the beginning of April. It now operates in partnership with First Great Western. Indeed, with these sister franchises, we are already responsible for operating services across the majority of the new franchise area – the South and West of England, Cotswolds, Thames and Kennet Valleys and South Wales. We know we can provide quality services for the other parts of the region which will make up the new franchise. We already have extensive local knowledge of the customers and infrastructure in the region. No other company has that level of local experience. The SRA has yet to announce its formal process for the Greater Western franchise bidding process however we are starting the work needed to win now. Over the next few months we will be launching a comprehensive consultation process, talking to our stakeholders and customers about our plans for the future and listening to their aspirations for the new franchise. I look forward to hearing your views. It is vital that while we are looking at the long term we continue to concentrate on the day-to-day business – providing a quality service for all customers. Performance across both companies continues to improve but is still not good enough. Our focus over the next few months is to work with Network Rail to reduce the number of temporary speed restrictions and infrastructure problems which cause delays. Last summer services were heavily disrupted by precautionary speed restrictions imposed by Network Rail during hot weather to ensure the safe operation of the network. Exceptional rail temperatures caused sections of the line to expand with a risk of buckling and signalling circuits failed. We have worked with Network Rail to find ways of dealing with these problems and a joint approach has been found which will not eradicate the need for heat-related speed restrictions but will minimise disruption to customers. Another immediate priority is to develop the restructured and integrated timetable for December. Our proposals for this timetable – which will mean a real step change in performance – are due for approval in the next month or so. Our plans for introduction in December have already been well documented but the top-line benefits will include: Improved performance, better punctuality and reliability Increased capacity at peak times Leasing of five additional eight-carriage High Speed Trains Better use of platform capacity at Reading and London Paddington
A change in departure times from London Paddington to provide a more reliable and robust timetable (Bristol services departing on the hour and 30 minutes past the hour and South Wales services departing at 15 minutes and 45 minutes past the hour) Intercity quality services with 125mph trains on many Thames Express services from Hereford, Worcester, Oxford, Didcot, Theale, Hungerford, Newbury, Reading and Slough. Faster journey times to many stations including Oxford, North Cotswolds and Kennet Valley Faster, more frequent services between London Paddington and Taunton, Tiverton, Exeter, Devon and Cornwall Additional semi fast services to Exeter using Adelante trains Extra capacity from Bristol and South Wales with additional High Speed Trains A fast service to Bristol Parkway in the evening peak Better connections to and from West Wales Reproduced with the permission of First Group
Towards 2006 (option 2) GNER HOLDINGS & LAING LAUNCH BID PARTNERSHIP FOR THE GREATER WESTERN FRANCHISE Due to be awarded by the Strategic Rail Authority in 2006, the Greater Western Franchise will combine the services currently operated by First Great Western, Thames Trains and Wessex Trains and will provide rail services between the West of England, South Wales, the Thames Valley and London. By bringing together the complementary skills of GNER, the leading intercity operator, and Chiltern Railways, the countryยนs leading regional and commuter railway, London & Western is able to offer a range of expertise of direct relevance to the proposed franchise. Both GNER and Chiltern Railways have a track record of delivering high standards of customer service, reliability and performance. Both have shown a desire to invest for the long term and a willingness to listen to what passengers want and to act accordingly. Commenting on the new partnership, Adrian Shooter, Chairman of Chiltern Railways and Managing Director of Laing Rail, stated: "Chiltern Railways and GNER are two 'best in class' operators. The experience that we have accumulated in running our existing franchises, each with their own very specific challenges, means that we have a great deal to offer the Greater Western network. This includes engineering expertise, a customer focused approach and the ability to work effectively with industry partners such as the SRA and Network Rail." "Working together as London & Western, we have a strong shared vision. We would like to create an integrated railway that really meets the needs of the local communities it serves and draws on the very best of what Chiltern Railways and GNER have been able to achieve." Christopher Garnett, Chief Executive of GNER, said: "Today signals the start of a formidable and very exciting partnership. Both GNER and Chiltern Railways are determined to improve the lives of rail travellers on this important route, providing them with the seamless, high quality and reliable service they deserve. There is also a huge opportunity to deliver a much more competitive and attractive alternative to the car. But first, we look forward to consulting fully and widely with communities along the route to understand better their needs and aspirations. This dialogue is crucial in developing London & Western's future franchise plans." Key Issues in the South West region include: Maximising the contribution of the rail network to the economic well-being of the South West journey times within the South West and to London and the Midlands the reliability and quality of train services w meeting the demands of tourism - key to the well-being of the South West a strong role for the branch lines of Cornwall and Devon strong local management and focus upon on the rail network of the South West About Chiltern Railways Chiltern Railways is wholly owned by Laing Rail, a division of John Laing plc. About GNER GNER is part of the Sea Containers Group of companies which has worldwide experience in passenger transport, marine container
leasing and investment in the leisure industry. Reproduced with the permission of London & Western Railway Company
News Update Arguably the most momentous recent Railway occasion in North Devon (besides the 150 Anniversary of the railway reaching Barnstaple) was the re-opening on 17 July to public passenger trains of the first stretch of the 2 ft gauge Lynton & Barnstaple railway now relaid for approx 1/3 mile from Woody Bay station towards Barnstaple.The original line opened in 1898 was closed by the Southern Railway in 1935 and dismantled soon afterwards. The revival of this line has enormous potential for North Devon and plans are already underway to extend the line. Woody Bay station is beside the A39 main road to Lynton and is well served by the Barnstaple to Lynton Buses. Ballast trains have continued to run up to thrice weekly from Meldon Quarry in connection with the redoubling of the main line between Burngullow & Probus near Truro, which should be completed by this Winter. Renewal of the lineside fencing, which had been completed earlier this year between Barnstaple and Lapford, has recently recommenced working from Lapford towards Exeter. Track in the Bury Bends area, between Morchard Road & Lapford (last re-laid in about 1962) and also near Chenson, between Lapford & Eggesford (last re-laid as long ago as 1938...a remarkable length of time for the sleepers which are oak) is to be re-laid with long welded rail already at site for several months, and steel sleepers. Crediton Station Picture: M Hodge The large flower beds at Crediton, erected and maintained by 'Friends of Crediton station' are providing a superb display...possibly the best floral display to be seen at any station on the national network in the South West. The Bideford & Instow Railway Group has finally been granted permission to carry passengers on its line at Bideford in its Brake Van worked by the line's resident Industrial Diesel Shunter and this officially took place from 15 August. Punctuality of Wessex operated Devon local services (incl the ND line) for the 4 wks ending 24/7/04 at 89.4% against a target of 92% for on time, was once again down on this time last year when the average for the whole year was on target at 92%. There is no doubt that the new local service timetable (introduced on 23/5/04) is going to find it hard to achieve the punctuality target of 92%, let alone the higher than this figure regularly achieved for many years. There have so far been no "adverse weather" scenarios which can cause havoc with punctuality. Punctuality for branch and main line stopping services in Cornwall at 95% remains good. The Dartmoor Railway had a rare visit by a main line excursion on July 10 when 47355 & 47703 worked a 12 coach train from Norwich to Okehampton and back. The "Dartmoor Belle" luxury dining & function train, normally worked by one of the 'stored' class 47 & class 73 locos at Meldon Quarry, has scheduled workings about 3 times a month this Summer & Autumn including Sept 5 & 26, Oct 10 & 24 for Sunday Lunch, Sept 11 for Wine & Dine and Oct 16 for Jazz on the line. Full details from Okehampton Stn 01837 55637. Sampford Courtenay station was finally reopened for use by the Dartmoor Railway's trains and the Sunday trains from/to Exeter from 23 May 2004.
= Rubbish! = Not a comment on anything in particular, but a look at the current situation regarding the disposal of our litter on the local railway system. Barnstaple station has now had litter bins re-instated, presumably on the assumption that it is not considered to be a worthwhile target, or that if it were blown up, few people would notice anyway! The principle has, however, not been extended to the platforms at Exeter St David's, where, if you indulge yourself with a coffee from the main buffet or the usually less crowded buffet on platform 5, and have to wait for a train on platforms 3/4 you have no option but to leave the empty on the ground/steps/window ledge, particularly if you are meeting the train and not travelling on it. Taunton station, it seems, has also moved back to providing the travelling public with the facilities it needs, so it is obviously not one rule for Wessex run stations and another for those run by First Great Western. Is there something special about Exeter that we don't know about?? The Bagman
'Twas Ever Thus I recently travelled from Exeter to Newbury by First Great Western, and shortly after leaving Exeter an affable individual in shirtsleeves appeared, collecting rubbish. Later he re-appeared wearing a jacket complete with "Train Managerâ€? badge, and checked my ticket. I expressed mild surprise, and with a smile he told me that they tackled everything. Many of us, whilst enjoying train travel in general, and the Barnstaple line in particular, have little interest regarding the type of train on which we are travelling. When Sir Richard Branson spent his billion pounds on new train sets, he purchased two types of trains. First was the diesel Voyager which operates between the English Channel and Scotland and the North of England. Now he is taking delivery of the electric Pendolino which connects London with the Midland, the North, and Scotland. Apparently he will, by next June, have acquired a few more trains of the type referred to as 350's. These smaller trains will be used on lightly loaded night services, and at weekends. This will result in the release of Pendolinos which can then operate between the Midlands and Scotland. This, in turn, will release Voyagers â€“ TO STRENGTHEN SUMMER HOLIDAY SERVICES TO THE SOUTH WEST. Why cannot at least one of these trains continue on to Barnstaple? Of course there are difficulties. The driver of the Voyager will need a Wessex pilotman, the conductor will need a Wessex counterpart to explain the strange rites at Eggesford (why in the 1980's were we given a 19th century solution?). Could the two conductors on the journey to Barnstaple collect the rubbish, and would the Virgin conductor be able to set the reservation details? Does the Voyager have selective door opening? If not would Health & Safety refuse to allow the train to stop at Eggesford on its return journey because of the short platform, in case hundreds of passengers jumped joyfully on to the track clutching their compensation claim forms. The train would physically stop at Eggesford so that the strange rites could be performed once more, it's just that the doors would not open.
Voyager trains often run in tandem, but the operator is reluctant to split them en route because of the time taken to deal with the electronics; (perhaps it may be possible to do so at Plymouth, I remember in June 1952 watching the King that had brought us from Paddington being replaced, and this inevitably took some time). A split at Exeter would also mean that the train would not call at Exeter Central, but how many passengers travel to Exeter on a Saturday afternoon? I am sure that there are other operational difficulties of which I am unaware, but are they insuperable? The main line is heavily used on a Summer Saturday, is a Sunday service an alternative? Holiday periods are much less rigid than they used to be, and holidaymakers may be prepared to travel on a Sunday on a direct service rather than changing at Exeter on a Saturday. Of course it will never happen, and so the ending is exactly the same as the beginning : 'twas ever thus! Hugh Butterworth
I read with considerable interest issue 16 of the North Devon Rail Users Group magazine. It is very important that our two organisations exchange news etc as we do, and it is very helpful for us that Andrew Tummon comes along to your meetings. Your magazine made an excellent job of putting out into the open the debate about the future of rural rail lines, and the heartache which supporters of the Tarka Line are having to go through; this as a result, not just of the SRA's consultations, but also of Wessex Trains seizing the initiative with the introduction of their new summer timetable. As a Group, Transport 2000 Devon has been an enthusiastic supporter of the attempt by Wessex to speed up the services to Barnstaple, providing a more regular service at the same time. If this has to be done at the expense of not serving the little-used intermediate stations then so be it. In an ideal world one would want to have both but this is no longer an ideal world. In an ideal world we would want everyone to not use their cars at all but instead use their local rail station, but, as is pointed out in the magazine, even those that do use the stations on the Tarka Line tend to reach them by car. That is the world we now live in. So, yes, we would like to see a core hourly service throughout the day on a clock face basis with trains serving Crediton and Eggesford en route. Of the other stations an argument could be made for retaining Umberleigh (relatively well used) and Yeoford (remote from the main road) in the normal service pattern, with trains stopping alternately at these stations giving each a 2-hourly service. Equally there is a case for giving Newton St Cyres an evening only service to cater for the demand, particularly from students, for visiting the Beer Engine pub from Exeter. This also provides a use for the last couple of trains back from Barnstaple which would otherwise he lightly loaded. (Wessex have paid attention to this in the current timetable). We firmly believe that attempts to speed up and improve services between Barnstaple and Exeter should not be sacrificed because of a perceived "need" to serve a raft of halts that generate next to no patronage. At the same time providing 2 or 3 trains per day to these places is not a service anyway; it is a meaningless gesture. We have to face up to the fact that as many as 6 stations on the line are at risk, but of course it would take a brave person to propose total closure: once done, re-opening at some future date would seem highly unlikely bearing in mind safety legislation etc. But there is a way out... The current Sunday service provides 5 trains each way (although one southbound is empty stock). However Sunday is still (just about) a day of leisure, and people are to some extent travelling for different reasons, with speed not as important. With the possible exception of the first southbound train and the last northbound, why not make all the trains stop at all the stations? (To some extent that happens now anyway). This would serve two purposes: 1. With a half decent service people have the opportunity to visit places of interest on the line, to take a walk in the countryside, or to have a go at the Rail Ale Trail, safe in the knowledge that they will be able to get back again. 2. All the stations along the line would be safeguarded, while inconvenience to through passengers would be minimal.
Membership Matters If you know someone who you think might like to join NDRUG please contact the Membership Secretary.
New Members We welcome: Mrs J Phillips, Down St Mary
Annual General Meeting Thursday 14th October, Old Town Station, Barnstaple (1830)
Committee Meetings (Members Welcome) Wednesday 22nd September, Fox and Hounds, Eggesford (1845) Wednesday 17th November, Devonshire Dumpling, Morchard Road (1830)
The past two years have been turbulent. I want to mention two things that have contributed to this state and then to offer a speculation abo...