Issue 18, Autumn 2004
Table of Contents
Editorial Work being carried out at Junction Pool Bridge, north of Kings Nympton Station during the two week blockade
It was a pleasure to see so many members at our AGM, and to able to put faces to names, one of the few times when this is possible; I hope that those of you who attended found it a worthwhile evening, and enjoyed our speaker’s presentation, despite the words of warning at the end. In the light of the comments made, we cannot afford to be complacent about the situation we find ourselves in, despite the increase in patronage reported by Wessex, some of the observed loadings have been poor. The summer trade down the line has been affected by the reduction in stops at intermediate stations, making day trips for visitors more problematical, and the recent closure of the line, and the interim arrangements made, must have left passengers bewildered to say the least. The User Group has, however, adopted a positive, proactive approach, as you will have seen with the issue of part one of Securing the Future, which has now had a wide circulation to parish, town, and district councils who have (or should have) a vested interest in the development of the line. Part two is due to be worked on and will be issued in the new year and will deal with other aspects of the line not covered in part one. Within this issue you will see that we have, as hinted at in the last editorial, extended the view of the user group to areas peripheral to, but yet relevant to, the North Devon Line. Nothing exists in isolation, particularly a transport system, and to this end we have included our submission on the Salisbury-Exeter line, since improvements there will have an effect on the passenger flows to and from our own line.
Chairman's Report Carnets and Fares North Devon Line: Securing the Future Members’ responses: an introduction The broad verdict Members’ comments Summary and conclusion Is there a better way? A life beside and on the line Good News for Torridgeside Submission in Support of Salisbury - Exeter Line Infrastructure Improvements Introduction Background Conclusion From along the Torridge A Disappointment News Update & Miscellany Sunday Services North Devon Line Blockade Tarka Line Working Party How about a trip to Holyhead Response to Consultation Document "Moving Forward" The Case for Umberleigh Customers? – Wot Customers? Readers Write Membership Matters New Members Committee Meetings (Members Welcome)
In order to maintain and enhance our reputation as a professional, forward looking organisation we must continue to express our point of view on all matters that could have an effect on the line and its future, and in support of this, the committee is, as indicated in the Chairman’s report, due to meet with representatives of all the prospective bidders for the new Greater Western Franchise due to be let in 2006. Reports of these meetings will appear in the next issue, so don’t let your membership lapse! Have a very Happy Christmas. Andy Hedges
It is a great pleasure to be writing this, my first report, to you. As those of you who were at the AGM will be aware, it was with a great deal of trepidation that I agreed to put my name forward. The main reason was because my predecessor will be such a hard act to follow. I should like to record here my sincere thanks and those of the Committee as well as the membership as a whole to John Gulliver. John was for a long time the Secretary of our Group before becoming first acting and then full time Chairman. His skills of leadership and scholarship will be greatly missed and I would like to pay tribute to the way in which he oversaw many issues, not least the preparation of "Securing the Future". Since becoming Chairman (as I write this, for about four weeks) a lot has happened - talk about being thrown in at the deep end! Firstly, your Committee has started to look at the way the Group is structured so as to be sure that we can move forward in a positive and pro-active way on behalf of you, our members. We are indeed looking at membership and how it might be expanded. One way will be for you to encourage your fellow travellers to join, by making contact with any committee member as listed inside the back cover of this magazine. Secondly we have now sent copies of "Securing the Future" to around fifty district and parish councils along the line and await their responses with interest. We hope that they will accept the need for change in order to ensure that we all can continue to enjoy the benefits of our rural railway, especially in the light of the warning given by Chris Irwin at the AGM. Thirdly, we have also prepared and circulated a paper in support of initiatives by both MPs and the County Council seeking improvements to the infrastructure of the Salisbury - Exeter line and have started to receive positive feedback. The fourth issue has been to express our very serious concerns to Wessex Trains over the recent blockades of the line, especially the lack of publicity. We have suggested a range of improvements for the next blockade scheduled for February, (see page 21). We have also written to Network Rail seeking assurances that the February blockade is really essential and asking that if at all possible early morning and evening services be permitted to run. Next we are about to make a submission in respect of the Devon Local Transport Plan. This is an important document as it is now the only means of securing monies for local transport projects, including for railways, transport integration etc. A summary of our submission is included below. Finally, with the Greater Western Franchise being put out to tender next year, we are hoping to be able to meet all those preparing bids. To this end we have already arranged for First Great Western and London & Western Railway Company to come to meet the Committee. The aim is to let them know of our aspirations and we shall be presenting a strong case backed up primarily by "Securing the Future" but also other issues raised by members such as the possibility of through trains to London and later evening services along our line. As you will see, it is a very busy, interesting and critical time for our railway and for us as a Group, especially with the likely demise of the Rail Passengers Committee (RPC). That is why we do desperately need more Committee members. Please think about it seriously and contact me, or any Committee member, to find out more. There is obviously a commitment but it is not unduly onerous. Our friendly and relaxed Committee meetings are held in various venues along the line between Barnstaple and Crediton and, being scheduled around train services, always finish on time! As this will be the last issue before Christmas, I should like to wish you all a peaceful festive season and a happy and prosperous New Year. John Phillips Chairman
Carnets and Fares A carnet is a book of tickets which may be used on trains buses and trams and is found in various countries; Wessex have introduced carnets on the Tamar Valley line. Carnets of 10 tickets may be purchased from local outlets but are not available from stations or on trains. Carnets cost £20 from Gunnislake and Calstock and £15 from the Beres (Alston and Ferrers). The tickets expire on 31st December and Wessex report that 117 carnets were sold in August through seven shops, and the scheme will probably continue. Using a carnet the cost of a return journey from Gunnislake to Plymouth would be £4, a single ticket from Gunnislake costs £4.30 and
a cheap day return £5, a carnet thus saves £1 a return trip and more if the return is not made the same day. At the Tarka Line Working Party meeting in September we asked if carnets could be introduced on the Barnstaple line, we hope to hear more at the next meeting in January. There are two possible suggestions, carnets between Crediton and Exeter and also carnets from Umberleigh to Barnstaple. The Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership analyses seem to show that most passengers from Umberleigh travel towards Exeter. A carnet of 20 tickets at 50 pence each would give a return fare of £1, the journeys would be against the "traffic flow" using lightly used morning trains to Barnstaple and the lightly used afternoon ones back. This would be an easy way of avoiding Barnstaple’s traffic problems and there is reasonable parking space at Umberleigh. It would be helpful however if more trains from Exeter actually stopped at Umberleigh! The Working Party also received details of loadings on the music trains in June July and August, these were approximately 60, 50, and 50. Little enthusiasm for these trains had been shown at the normal return fare of around £10, but use of the Evening Day Ranger at £5 stimulated interest. It would certainly be pleasant to see over 60 people on the 20.37 from Exeter, a train which often seems to struggle to reach the early teens in passenger numbers. Whether or not there is any kind of lesson to be learned here on fare structure is open to conjecture but Wessex is nevertheless to be congratulated on its initiatives. Hugh Butterworth
North Devon Line: Securing the Future Members’ Responses to the Consultation Paper
Members’ responses: an introduction In September 2004, the committee invited all members of the group to comment on its proposals for a substantial change in the pattern of the service offered by the North Devon line. These had five main features: From Mondays to Saturdays inclusively, a regular hourly clock face service throughout most of the day, with a BarnstapleExeter St Davids journey time of less than 1 hour, calling at Umberleigh, Eggesford, Morchard Road, Crediton and Yeoford, with a last down train later than in the May 2004 timetable; Umberleigh, Eggesford, Morchard Road and Crediton to be developed as railheads; One Monday-Saturday morning and evening service in each direction serving all stations by request; Monday-Saturday evening services call additionally at Lapford and Copplestone by request; Sunday services to serve all stations by request. 22 members, or roughly 15% of the group’s paid-up membership, responded by letter or by email. Their names are listed at the end of this report. They are to be thanked for the thoughtfulness of their replies, as, indeed, are the many others who commented orally. As promised, the written comments were made available at the 2004 AGM for all to see. About a two thirds of those who responded in writing came from within the line’s catchment area, and from most points along its length. Others were from wider afield, with addresses ranging from Crewe to Crozet (in France). Some use the North Devon line frequently, others more rarely. In these respects, the respondents, although relatively few in number, might be regarded as typical of the group’s membership as a whole. The comments were of two kinds. On the one hand were those which attended to matters not dealt with in the consultation paper. They attended, in many cases in considerable detail, to perceived needs to change the line’s fare structure, to improve marketing, to enhance its infrastructure, to provide a new station at Bishop’s Tawton, to extend it beyond Barnstaple and to improve links between trains and buses. Their frequency suggests that members are concerned about these matters. With this in mind, the next issue of the magazine will carry a summary of what has been said about them. On the other were members’ comments about the committee’s proposals, which centred, as noted above, on the pattern of service the line might offer. This report focuses on these comments alone in order to draw out the main threads. Since it is for the committee as a whole, and indeed the membership, to consider what has been said, I offer it without comment, except in the final paragraph.
The broad verdict
17 out of the 22 respondents, or 77%, explicitly supported the broad thrust of committee’s proposals or the arguments that underpinned them. Nobody opposed them. Others, while offering other comments, said nothing about the proposals directly. Overall, then, one can safely say that respondents overwhelmingly backed the committee’s recommendations. Given the relatively low number of responses, any claim that this verdict reflects the views of the membership as a whole must be viewed with caution. On the other hand, individual comments, and trends in individual comments, might warrant greater attention. It is to these that I now turn.
Members’ comments 1. On the paper, its argument and broad conclusions There is much praise for the presentation of the consultation paper. Typically, respondents offer ‘congratulations on such a thorough and readable document’ (DM), state that it is ‘thoughtful and constructive’ (MH) and thank the committee for its efforts: ‘It is obvious that a great deal of time and effort have gone into its preparation; thank you’ (RS). Similarly, at a broad level, its arguments and conclusions are widely supported: ‘The analysis of the problems of the line and suggested ... solutions are lucid and sensible’ (RA); ‘a good review of the present context of the N Devon line ... the logic of the proposals follows clearly from the evidence ...’ (JB); ‘the report rightly stresses the importance of increasing the number of passengers ...’ (MH); ‘I support the general tenet of a railhead system’ (GS); ‘the general approach is right’ (DPC); ‘I fully endorse the ‘Railhead Approach’ (RO). RO’s endorsement of the approach advocated in the consultation paper, indeed, exemplifies the main point that emerges from the comments received: at a broad level, respondents typically support the committee’s argument and conclusions. The proposed mainly railhead-based, hourly service is seen as the way forward. 2. Where opinions differ Beyond the broad consensus, however, lie differences of opinion about details and even principle. For one respondent (BBr), ‘the issue of a later train should lie much higher up the agenda.’ Beyond this, differences relate to three things especially: the identification of the railheads; the future of the non-railhead stations; and the tension between service regularity, frequency and speed on the one hand and provision for the less-used stations on the other. In each case, they involve respondents questioning some of the committee’s recommendations. a) Stations recommended for development as railheads Explicitly or by implication, most respondents endorse the choice of the four stations identified by the committee for development as railheads. While supporting the broad approach, however, JN advocates ‘higher line speeds and possibly fewer railheads’. He suggests that this would not only attract more end-to-end traffic, but also be more productive: ‘the train and its train crew can cover more journeys with a shorter journey time - a virtuous circle.’ DM might also cut out one of the recommended stations: ‘... we need to be pragmatic rather than nostalgic ... I doubt the added value of retaining Morchard Road as a railhead - Winkleigh folk I would guess would travel to Eggesford to connect.’ CC raises a question about another recommended railhead: ‘Once people drive to Crediton, they will drive all the way.’ The station car park is wrongly sited, he says: it ‘needs to be on town side of station.’ By contrast, DPC sees a future for Yeoford as a railhead if linked to the Dartmoor Railway and PF says that it might bring in some more people from a distance ‘if the former goods yard could provide some more parking.’ Noting the increasing population at Copplestone, CC asks whether it was a close-run thing between this station and Morchard Road in the identification of possible railheads. GD, writing on behalf of Railfuture Devon and Cornwall, suggests that Umberleigh is well placed to be developed as a railhead for Great Torrington, South Molton, Atherington and High Bickington, but says that land for car parking needs to be acquired and appropriately designated. MS also welcomes the identification of Umberleigh as a potential railhead, but suggests that, ‘[since] it is not on a regular ‘axis of movement’ for Torrington (or South Molton) residents. [it] would need some hard ‘selling’.’ b) Stations not recommended for development as railheads With regard to the stations not recommended as potential railheads, HW, while firmly believing that the change to the railhead
principle should be accepted, asserts that it is ‘... important that the six stations which would have a lesser time-table are still kept in mind if there is a future need for improvement.’ GD would retain a service to all the currently open stations, albeit at differing levels. Chapelton and Portsmouth Arms would have the lowest level, each with one train per day. The latter should be retained ‘as an ideal point for bus/rail transfer if part of the railway is closed.’ PF makes a case for Yeoford in particular: as the fifth busiest station, serving a village ‘all but devoid of any bus service’, he suggests that it warrants request stop status for all trains. The case for this station is also advocated by GP, albeit on different grounds: ‘Yeoford needs a decent train service as the road access is poor and cannot be improved.’ PF advocates a ‘wait and see’ approach to Lapford, which ‘appears to offer a worthwhile level of custom ... which might become better if an hourly service is introduced’. GD suggests that Copplestone trains should be fully integrated with the bus service, with interavailable tickets. PF suggests that, despite it recent low level of patronage, ‘it may well be worth continuing the service [to Copplestone] for a while to see whether or not the large number of new houses in the offing brings a future improvement’. But he goes on to say that, especially as there is very limited car parking, if there is no improvement, it could be closed. The possibility, even the desirability of station closures is mooted by six of our twenty-two respondents (including PF), albeit for differing reasons. JB says, ‘The report is coy about the future of the "group 4 stations" of Chapelton, Portsmouth Arms and Newton St Cyres’ and suggests that ‘it might be better to be open and admit that we would be prepared to sacrifice these stations to improve the service to others.’ DPC asks, ‘Shouldn’t [these] stations be closed to produce savings and improve the economics of the line?’ On this, MH seeks further information: ‘We don’t know what savings there would be following the complete closure of the three stations in Group 4 ... Would it help the Group to make suggestions or recommendations if these running costs were known?’ AW, however, suggests that enough information is already available: ‘The statistics ... should leave no "realist" in doubt that drastic pruning of "dead wood" is called for. Chapelton, Portsmouth Arms and Newton St Cyres should be closed immediately.’ He adds that Copplestone, Lapford and Kings Nympton should also be considered for the ‘hit list’. TS says, ‘Be ruthless where there is barely a footfall on the platform. No footfall equals, sooner or later, ‘no Station’.’ c) Balance between the desire for frequent, fast and regular trains and services to the non-railhead stations Writing about the frustration of once living in a rural community, with many trains passing through the nearest station (Umberleigh), but only being able to travel on the few that stopped, RS notes how ‘... the situation improved dramatically with the introduction of the "request stop" system.’ But he goes on to say, ‘It has to be recognised that there should be a balance between the needs of travellers from rural communities ... and the need for a swift Barnstaple to Exeter service, particularly to make connections with main-line trains.’ Speed is mentioned by a number of respondents. One, DCa, suggesting that ‘the paper reflects the tension I suspect exists in the Group’s membership between those who are primarily interested in trains, and the ND railway in particular, and those who want to promote public transport in general,’ does not see faster trains as important: ‘I would be pleased to see a dedicated coach link from Bideford ... and Barnstaple to Tiverton Parkway or Taunton railway station ... [I] suspect it would be more attractive to the present car drivers than services speeded up on the Barnstaple line.’ All the others (7 in all, 5 quoted below) who touch on this matter, however, explicitly or by implication prioritise the frequency, speed or regularity of the service overall. Time and distance, some say, matter. DM writes: ‘[It] is an increasingly crucial element in people’s lives these days ... on recent visits to Chittlehamholt I have tended to use Tiverton Junction for this very reason - although I could have been tempted to go for Eggesford via Exeter St Davids if there was a smart connection and the Barnstaple train was largely a non-stopper.’ AW, a Bideford resident recommending the closure of the least used stations, says, ‘No doubt there will be protests from those affected, but they should be reminded that ... some rail passengers are already enduring frustrating road journeys of anything up to 20 miles to reach their nearest rail-head at Barnstaple.’ Emphasising passenger figures, BBu says, ‘... there will be winners and losers but ... what can be gained in passenger growth by speeding up services will far outweigh the small loss of existing passengers from the stations dropped.’ With revenue in mind, PF says, ‘Bearing in mind the tiny proportion of income derived from [Chapelton, Portsmouth Arms and Newton St
Cyres], I would have thought that the advantages of an hourly service outweigh the social benefits accruing from stops there, and that those three stations should be closed altogether to help to make this possible.’ With service regularity in mind, DPC questions the committee’s recommendations for morning and evening ‘all stations by request’ services: ‘Why sabotage the potential clockface regularity by inserting request stops - especially in peak trains?’ ‘Peak time Barnstaple commuters, he writes, ‘will ... want a fast service rather than a ‘stopper’ that runs to a non-standard slot in the timetable.’ He says, ‘A service for Copplestone and Lapford in the evening sounds reasonable ...,’, but further asks, ‘Are the extra stops likely to jeopardise the ‘under the hour schedule’ which presumably is a requirement for the interval clockface timetable?’
Summary and conclusion Respondents raise, in many cases in considerable detail, a number of issues not considered in the consultation paper (but which, I understand, the committee will address in a future one). With regard to the matters the paper does consider, they give overwhelming support at a broad level to the committee’s proposals. At a more particular level, however, respondents in varying numbers raise questions about which stations are most appropriately identified for development as railheads, what is to be done about the other stations and the balance that should be struck between the frequency, speed and regularity of the trains and the service offered to the lesser stations. Given the relatively low response rate to the consultation paper, these generalisations must be used with caution. Nonetheless, some of the differences between respondents’ views that emerge involve important matters of principle. It may be that the committee, and indeed the membership as a whole, will want to consider them further.
John Gulliver October 2004 Respondents (to whom the committee is grateful): Dr R.H. Arnold, John Bradbeer, Barrie Britton, Bob Bunyar, David Cannon, Cyril Chudley, David P. Clegg, Gerard Duddridge, Peter Flick, Michael Hodge, David Morgan, John Nicholas, Mr R. Oldring, George Palin, Geraldine Sainsbury, Michael Sampson, Roland Sankey, Tony Speller, Babs Stutchbury, Stanley Thomas, Horace Webber, Alan Wilkinson
Is there a better way? Network Rail controls the National Rail Timetable, and it is not just desirable, but essential that it maintains close control; however to the uninformed observer central control and command appears to be over bureaucratic. For example NDRUG would like to see a stop at Umberleigh on the 15:52 from Exeter which at present runs non-stop from Eggesford arriving at Barnstaple at 16:49, and begins its return journey 9 minutes later. A stop at Umberleigh and a 7 minute turnaround at Barnstaple does not seem to be a change of earth shattering proportions, but it appears that the permission of Network Rail must first be obtained. We do not know Wessex’s views on the change, but even if it does agree, the alteration cannot be easily effected. Conversely, agreement has apparently been reached on alterations to the level crossing at Eggesford. This is much more complicated, involving the alterations themselves, the involvement of H.M Railway Inspectorate, and driver training. To the uninformed observer the process seems to be a leisurely one. Could a better way be found? this uninformed observer does not know, but if it could, it might rejuvenate the flagging belief of Wessex Train managers in the existence of Father Christmas! Hugh Butterworth
A life beside and on the line A tribute on the retirement of Len Gillard Len, who has lived on his farm by the line at Coleford Jcn all his life, has been a staunch supporter of the North Devon branch line (and also of course the former main line to Okehampton) using Yeoford station for his regular journeys by train. Len, whose father was one of the last farmers to use cart horses in the Yeoford area, has never driven a car so depended on the railway for transport and by so doing came to know many of the regular passengers and staff well. Len's cheery disposition in recounting, on the way home on a Friday, his visit to the weekly cattle market in Exeter helped to bridge the gap between town & country people. He also witnessed first hand the change in the 1960's from steam to diesel and has many memories of the locos and traffics carried; particularly those at Yeoford, which was once a busy junction station for North & West Devon and North Cornwall, with its own marshalling yard. Len has always been a keen supporter of the NDRUG and has been on the committee for several years. Len has now decided to retire from the committee, as for a variety of reasons, he can no longer regularly attend our meetings. The committee have decided to make Len an Honorary life member in appreciation of his dedication to NDRUG and the North Devon line and we extend our thanks to him and wish him well for the future. Tony Hill
Good News for Torridgeside A bus stop (for setting down only) is now in place at the foot of Sticklepath Hill and will be used by all buses approaching Barnstaple from the Bideford direction. Access from the bus stop to the railway station can be obtained via the Tarka Trail. This means that it is no longer necessary to cross the busy main road and negotiate the steps to the car park. Thanks are due to our past chairman John Gulliver who campaigned for this improvement, and to Devon County Council and Firstbus for implementing it. Hugh Butterworth
In September the following submission was sent to all MPs whose have the line passing through their constituencies or whose constituency is a likely catchment area for users of the line. In addition copies were sent to the relevant Devon County councillors.
Submission in Support of Salisbury - Exeter Line Infrastructure Improvements Introduction 1. The North Devon Rail Users Group (NDRUG) represents passengers on the railway line between Exeter and Barnstaple, and fully supports the action currently being taken by local Members of Parliament and local authorities led by Devon County Council, to seek improvements to the Salisbury to Exeter line. 2. Many journeys made by the North Devon line's passengers go beyond Exeter especially towards London and the South East using both the First Great Western and the South West Trains routes. 3. The Salisbury-Exeter route is attractive for a number of reasons. Firstly, although slower than the Paddington route, this is reflected in the fare level. Furthermore, Network Railcards can be used as early as 0800 from Exeter St Davids on Mondays Fridays. Secondly the quality of service is generally very good. Both of these have lead to a significant increase in usage with overcrowding at certain times. Thirdly, and most importantly, as well as the towns along the route (many of which are important business or tourism destinations) a simple cross platform interchange at Salisbury opens up the potential of many major south coast
towns and cities. 4. The main detracting factors are the basic two hourly frequency and the reliability problems caused by extensive lengths of single line working. It is these factors which only infrastructure improvements can overcome. 5. The other issue is connections. Apart from catering for local journeys to & from Exeter, the present timetable for the North Devon (or Tarka) Line has tended to focus on connections with trains to & from Reading & London Paddington. The consequence has been that connections into the Salisbury - Exeter route have been poor. This coupled with the relatively infrequent and irregular timetabling, means that use of the North Devon Line for connectional purposes is minimised with consequent loss of revenue attributed to it. 6. Thus NDRUG has a valid reason to be concerned with any debate about the Salisbury - Exeter line.
Background 7. NDRUG is aware that First Great Western are to overhaul their timetable in December to provide regular interval services. A regular departure pattern has been established by Virgin Cross Country. We are also proposing a regular interval hourly service for the North Devon Line. Together with the Exmouth and Paignton trains these would enable a standard pattern of services to be established at Exeter St Davids with one exception. That, of course is the service to & from London Waterloo via Salisbury. 8. There have been numerous campaigns and studies to have the missing sections of double track re-instated over many years, notably the SELCA grouping of local authorities and other interested parties. 9. It is significant that the Regional Planning Guidance for the South West 2001 (RPG10) includes Policy TRAN 2. This contains, inter alia, the following words: "Local authorities, the Highways Agency, the SRA, transport operators and other agencies should work together to provide and maintain a strategic transport system to enhance the competitiveness of the region, reduce its peripherality and support the special strategy. In particular they should aim to ......encourage improvements to the rail network to improve safety, journey speed, service frequency, comfort and reliability and to help shift long distance travel to rail." 10. The SWARMMS study carried out by Halcrow on behalf of the Government was published in 2002 perversely after the Regional Planning Guidance. This study examined the transport corridor between Reading/Basingstoke and Exeter and beyond into Cornwall. It covered road and rail public and private transport. One of its main recommendations was that the existing single track sections between Salisbury and Exeter should be dualled whilst also recommending the improvement to dual carriageway standard throughout of the A303. 11. The Government accepted the plans for A303 (albeit that there is still a debate as to whether it should be dualled throughout or whether the western end should instead be via an improved A358 between Ilchester and the M5). At the same time they rejected the railway line improvement believing that longer trains would answer the capacity problem. In fact most trains are already six coaches the maximum that can be accommodated without extensive platform lengthening. 12. This state of affairs is not satisfactory for the following reasons: a. It does nothing to enable the frequency of service to be improved. The SWARMMS survey recommended that sufficient capacity should be provided to enable a half hourly service to be provided between both Salisbury and Yeovil Junction and Honiton and Exeter. Not only would this provide additional capacity, it would also enable the through London Waterloo - Exeter service to considerably be speeded up and therefore become a more attractive service and give south Somerset and East Devon a high quality service. It would also relieve the chronic peak hour congestion on the A30 on the approaches to Exeter (over 18,000 vehicles per day, rising to almost 25,000 vehicles per day on summer Saturdays). However, the Study did concede that any infrastructure improvements would probably need to be incremental initially at least sufficient to enable an hourly through service to be provided. An hourly service is the minimum needed to address capacity problems as well as serving other needs discussed below. b. It does nothing to improve the reliability of the service. The 17 mile single track section between Chard Junction and Yeovil Junction is the fourth longest in the country, and the section between Chard and Honiton is not far behind at 15 miles with a further 14 mile stretch onwards to Pinhoe. Consequently, when there is even a minor incident reliability suffers, sometimes very badly at great inconvenience to passengers. c. A reliable and regular hourly service would enable connections with other services (including the North Devon Line) at Exeter St Davids to be planned on a consistent basis. d. Taken in conjunction with the Great West main line, infrastructure improvements would work towards achieving a four track railway between London and the southwest. It is very important to recognise that when incidents or engineering works affect
the Great Western between Reading and Exeter, the Salisbury - Exeter route offers a diversionary route (either via Basingstoke or Yeovil Junction). Use is made of this but at great inconvenience to many Salisbury - Exeter line passengers whose journeys are foreshortened and have to change into often already full First Great Western or Virgin Cross Country trains. e. There is a major new settlement about to be started for the area between Exeter and Broadclyst for which a new railway station is also planned. The present basic two hourly service is not frequent enough to make use of the railway an attractive alternative to the motor car for journeys to Exeter or even in many cases towards London. Without infrastructure improvements there is presently insufficient capacity to improve this situation and, indeed, a further stop to serve this station will slow the overall service still further. f. Associated with the new settlement is a proposed rail served "skypark" business area. A new terminal is also proposed near the new settlement for the fast growing Exeter Airport. Neither of these can be effectively served without additional rail infrastructure, especially as the tunnel and gradient between Exeter St Davids and Central means that rail freight will normally have to travel via Yeovil Junction. 13. Since January 2004, Devon County Council (DCC) has been leading work with Somerset and Wiltshire County Councils, the SRA, Network Rail and South West Trains (SWT) to investigate the most cost effective way of making infrastructure improvements necessary to support an hourly service to Exeter. This is on the basis that SWT now believe that they can achieve an hourly service between Salisbury and Yeovil using the existing infrastructure, whereas previously improvements between Wilton and Templecombe were deemed necessary. 14. Consequently, by restricting any necessary improvement works west of Yeovil means that improvements should be achievable at a cost somewhat less than previous estimates shown in the SWARMMS Study of up to £55m (or £165m for reinstating double track throughout). DCC has now completed the first stage of work necessary to support this - timetable planning. They, in partnership with the other County Councils and the Regional Development Agency, have agreed to fund a feasibility study into the necessary track and signalling improvements and costing of any enhancement works. This is fully supported and endorsed by NDRUG. 15. It should also be noted that DCC have informed the Regional Assembly that the Regional Transport Strategy should, in addition to improvements to the Great Western Rail Network, also include the provision of enhancement between Waterloo and Exeter to enable an hourly service pattern.
Conclusion 16. Much work has already been undertaken to study the problems of the Salisbury - Exeter line. The problems (most of which are rehearsed above) are widely recognised by the industry, by local authorities and by local politicians and, of course, passengers. In the view of NDRUG action to improve the situation is long overdue. NDRUG would support a programme of improvements to initially reduce the long single track sections with a view to achieving an hourly service and a reduction in delays which those single track sections often cause, but also with a long term vision of a return to a largely double track railway. NDRUG would urge, as part of this process, that Network Rail be asked to break down the required works into a number of small improvements in priority order, and to prepare schemes for each of these that could be implemented quickly as and when funding becomes available.
From along the Torridge Lengthy negotiations with the Office of the Rail regulator, Her Majesty’s Railway Inspectorate, and the health and Safety Executive have finally culminated in permission to operate a passenger carrying service at specified times, subject to the regulations which are equal to (if not more than) those applying to the national rail network. The service will be operated by the "Hibberd Planet" diesel shunter and ex BR standard goods brake van, staffed by members who have been examined and passed by a senior railway official. The 13th annual open day on 15th August saw the start of the service, with 551 passengers being carried, and in addition to this, over 2000 visitors were able to see the re-fitted signal box and the historical sequence displays in the 1942 ex SR luggage van, as well as model railways, stalls and the group’s own refreshment bar. Due to circumstances beyond our control, activities in the station
yard were restricted, but static displays and an open top bus tour were still available. At Instow the Carillion Award plaque was unveiled by Steve Wood of the Heritage Railway Association at a ceremony on Saturday June 5th. For future reference preliminary plans are being drawn up for "Bideford 150" in 2005, which will be a date separate from the annual open day. We now also have a new web site at http://www.bidefordrail.co.uk Alan Wilkinson Bideford and Instow Railway Group
A Disappointment Firstbus has discontinued its practice of allowing the Ilfracombe â€“ Barnstaple service to continue to the railway station. We do not know why, but suspect that congestion is the reason. In fact first still provide a better service than heretofore, as buses continue to arrive at 06:35, 07:40 and 17:57. It will be interesting to see whether the service to the station is restored when the Downstream Bridge has been completed. Hugh Butterworth
News Update & Miscellany A recent visit to the Dartmoor Railway found the class 08 loco, which is the usual engine for the Dartmoor Pony trains out of action with mechanical problems. The passenger train was instead being worked by a Class 73 electro-diesel loco with 3 coaches of a former SR Weymouth line push/pull set. Ballast trains from Meldon Quarry to the now completed Burngullow/Probus redoubling project have recently finished. A special train hauled by steam loco "City of Truro" from Plymouth to Truro was scheduled for 30 Nov. to mark the completion of this project. The recent M-F Blockades with associated bustitution on the ND line for 2 weeks for what was expected to be "Major" work on the Infrastructure in practice turned out to be nothing more than routine maintenance such as spot sleeper & rail changing, scrub/tree cutting, inspection/maintenance of infrastructure generally and some tamping & ballast regulating with on track machines at various locations along the line. This work was always done at night (when no trains were scheduled) up until about the last year when these weekday Blockades were introduced on the ND line along with similar Blockades on the other S.West Branches. This included the busy Newton Abbot/Paignton line where at least some major track renewal has just taken place. Increasingly the wisdom of these weekday blockades, including the high costs of bustitution, is being questioned and the disruption to rail passengers' journeys is without a doubt causing a drift away from rail as the chosen mode of transport. The severe S.E. gales in late October caused the Exeter to Newton Abbot main line to be closed on 27 Oct for several days after a hole was made in the sea wall just west of Dawlish station and other less serious damage to the infrastructure. This was the longest period of closure of the line due to sea wall damage since the mid 80's, but understandably brought renewed calls for the re-opening of the former much missed SR main line between Meldon Quarry and Bere Alston, closed in May 1968 and dismantled by train in the winter of 1969/70. The first season of operation by the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Co. of passenger trains from Woody Bay station saw a total of over 11,300 passengers carried between 17 July & 31 October. It is understood that Santa Special trains will run at Woody Bay in December (tel 01598 763487 for details). Civil Engineering firm Nuttalls (who constructed much of the original L&B line in the late 1890's) have recently completed the rebuilding (free of charge!) of a rail over Bridleway/Footpath bridge on the line, allowing the railway to be re-laid for a further 1/2 mile towards Parracombe. Nuttalls have just been awarded the contract to build the Barnstaple downstream bridge/bypass. This will greatly shorten the road journey for people driving between the Braunton/Ilfracombe area and Barnstaple station. This will also result in
buses on the busy Barnstaple/Bideford/Westward Ho/Appledore route running via the railway stn...this can do nothing but increase the use of the ND line. This Summer's Dartmoor Sunday Rover train service between Exeter and Okehampton has been used by 6,196 passengers, a drop of 8% compared to Summer 2003. A major contributory factor was that it was wet on 10 out of the 20 Sundays this Summer! The Dartmoor Railway's programme of 20 Wine & Dine and Jazz special trains have, it is understood, been well supported this year and a similar number of trains are planned to be run in 2005. A class 31 and a second class 73 Electro Diesel from the Fragonset pool of stored locos at Meldon Quarry is hoped to be available for use on these trains in 2005. Tony Hill
Sunday Services The new Sunday service of 6 trains a day at two hourly intervals replaces the former winter service of three trains and summer service of five trains. This is big improvement by Wessex, not only because of the additional trains, but also because of the regularity of the timetable. As far as I know there has been little or no publicity of the change. When Devonians become aware of it, will they take advantage of it? Several stations have somewhere within walking distance where a roast Sunday lunch can be obtained and this can sometimes be combined with a pleasant country walk. Hugh Butterworth
North Devon Line Blockade 11–22 October 2004 As most readers will be aware, the line between Exeter and Barnstaple was completely closed for maintenance work by Network Rail for two weeks in October, with train services replaced by road transport. Up until the Thursday prior to the closure there was no information regarding this closure posted at the stations, and neither was there any information available from station staff at manned stations. Finally posters were put up, but, as far as we know, nothing was put into local newspapers, so until prospective passengers turned up to travel, they had no idea of the situation. Indeed up to the almost the start of the closure Wessex’s web site had been indicating that morning and evening trains would run! In the absence of any details from Wessex, NDRUG attempted to fill passenger’s needs by producing an A4 handout detailing the replacement coach services. This was warmly received by passengers, and also by Wessex staff, who had been resorting to writing details on scraps of paper for passengers. Wessex have kindly reimbursed us for the expense incurred in doing this. Observations by members of the Group at various times along the line found little if any evidence of the heavy maintenance work (rail/sleeper replacement etc) being carried out that would have justified a two week total closure. One positive note from the two weeks was the organisation of the coach transport at St David’s, where we have had reports of the gentleman responsible for the co-ordination of passengers and coaches being first class in terms of demeanour and passenger handling skills; we understand that he is an employee of Frazer Eagle, so at least they have the passengers interests to the fore; well done to them. In the light of all of the foregoing the committee felt it necessary to make representation to the relevant parties, both to advise the problems that had occurred, and also to obtain some agreement on the arrangements for subsequent closures including the next proposed in February/March 2005. The following letter was sent to Mr A Wilson, Managing Director of Wessex Trains:
NORTH DEVON LINE BLOCKADE 11 â€“ 22 October 2004 We are writing constructively about the above in the hopes of avoiding problems in any future blockade. Before doing so, however, we wish to raise our strongly held concerns about the recent events. Specifically these are: A) The lack of prior notice. There was no adequate prior notice given to passengers at stations or on trains nor, as has been usual practice, in your otherwise excellent timetable booklet. Posters were not displayed until Thursday 8 October (Possibly 7 October at Barnstaple) but this was too late for regular but not daily travellers who, for example, may use the train on one or two days per week. B) Lack of detailed information. There was no timetable information available for passengers. It was only through the good offices of a member of our Committee that a timetable was produced based on the posters displayed at stations, a copy of which I received by e-mail. This was distributed from 11 October onwards to ticket offices (and was gratefully received by staff) and to the coach drivers (who were also very pleased to receive them). I attach a copy and would be most grateful if the ÂŁ10.00 cost to the Group could be re-imbursed. C) General matters of concern. The Wessex Trains website contained details of the blockade but, until it was pointed out by myself, still contained reference to morning and evening trains operating normally (of which more later). We are very concerned that the efforts of all parties having worked so hard to build up traffic on the line will be severely affected by having these annual line closures. From the letter to Mr Maddocks (copy attached) you will see that we are far from satisfied that total closure is justified and also, if the February blockade does go ahead, the closure of our line for effectively a month is unacceptable, especially to regular peak hour travellers. D) Replacement Bus operation. These seemed to work reasonably well outside peak periods. However, in the peaks reliability was not good, leading to missed connections at St Davids especially in the morning and the crucial 0847 arrival. This was affected by the normal peak hour traffic, but was also exacerbated by the road works at Copplestone and latterly at Cowley. We do remain concerned that the poster on the front of the vehicles advertising the service gives prominence to Frazer Eagle over the words "Rail Replacement Service". Finally, we would like to know who actually pays for the replacement bus service. These are the problems, which, from our perspective, need to be overcome. In summary the solutions are as follows and would apply to the February blockade (if it takes place) and any subsequent similar situations: 1) We would urge you to resist the February blockade unless the work to be carried out really is essential. 2) Advance notice should be included in pocket timetables for all planned blockades (and other engineering works if planned) 3) Posters should be erected at stations ideally a month (but not less
In addition, the following letter was sent to Mr T Maddocks, West Country Customer Service Manager for Network Rail:
NORTH DEVON LINE BLOCKADE 11 â€“ 22 October 2004 I am writing to express our concerns about the above, especially as long closures affect the ridership of our line, ridership that has taken time, money in both marketing & service provision and hard work by Wessex Trains, the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership and local authorities to build up. As an example, passenger numbers on 28 October from Morchard Road on the 0824 to Exeter and the 1638 return where only two passengers joining the train and one alighting respectively. Comparable figures before the blockade were approximately five to seven each way. We carried out our own observations of work being carried out along most of the length of the line and found nothing that seemed to us could not be carried out between the peak hours. Indeed on the first Wednesday two road-rail machines were observed unattended at about 1500 on the track just north of Morchard Road Station. They were still there just before dark and therefore presumably remained there overnight. Furthermore, there did not seem to be any sign of activity anywhere along the line after about 1530. This all begs the question as to why the line was not open for peak hour traffic â€“ traffic which it is important to safeguard for the future wellbeing of the line. The inconvenience to passengers is considerable as explained in the enclosed letter to Mr Wilson, Managing Director of Wessex Trains. We appreciate the need for cost effective maintenance, but this must be but one consideration alongside the needs and convenience of passengers on whom the future of the line depends. This all brings me onto the question of the proposed February Blockade, and we have the following questions: A) Is the Blockade to go ahead? B) If so does it need to last a fortnight? C) If it does go ahead, what works are planned and do they require complete closure? D) Can the works be planned around the peak hour trains? E) If, in answer to C, such works are contained in the section north of Eggesford for all or part of the time, then can the replacement bus service operate between Barnstaple and Eggesford only so that they do not become delayed by the inevitable traffic congestion in and around Exeter? Your answers to these questions will be greatly appreciated, especially as they will help inform our members and generate greater understanding of what is involved. However, I would ask you on behalf of Network Rail to consider very carefully the fact that if the February blockade does take place, this coupled with the recent blockade will mean that, for the vast majority of passengers, the line will be closed for a total of almost a month. We look forward to hearing from you.
Tarka Line Working Party The Tarka Line Working Party is a group set up by Devon County Council, and run by the Devon & Cornwall Rail partnership. It meets three times a year, and may be attended by local authorities and other interested parties. The latest meeting was held on 9th September and was attended by our chairman John Phillips and myself. It will be remembered that the Community Rail consultation paper reported on in the spring recommended that five branch lines, including St Erth – St Ives and Liskeard – Looe should be run as microfranchises assisted by the train operating company. These schemes would now go ahead and no more would be considered for the time being. Help in appointing line managers to oversee small groups of branch lines would be considered in the future. The Barnstaple 150 celebrations had been very successful, and it was noted that the £5 day return to Exeter/Exmouth had been particularly well used from Barnstaple. Friends of Crediton Station were progressing with their station improvement program, and had received a grant from the Rail Partnership; David Gosling is drawing up an action plan. The Partnership had received grants, which were used on advertisements and leaflets promoting the line. The Rural Transport Partnership Delegated Fund can provide up to £2000 for projects such as small scale station improvements, promotions etc, applications should be made to the Partnership. It was reported that after the Exeter stations, the most frequent journeys were to Paddington and Waterloo. Journeys were being encouraged for Christmas shopping in both Exeter and Barnstaple. The first work in connection with Barnstaple’s downstream bridge would consist of alterations to the Station Approach, and would begin in December with completion in March. It is intended as part of the 2005 Local Transport Plan that all buses to and from Bideford would call at the railway station. Devon County Council is, with the support of the Chamber of Commerce, approaching employers in the Barnstaple area in order to promote the use of public transport. We were told of the engineering blockades which took place on Monday to Friday on the weeks of 11th and 18th October; we asked whether morning and evening trains could be run, but were told that unfortunately this would result in an inefficient form of working. The work was described as annual heavy maintenance, but it is to be hoped that this will not be an annual event. A further blockade would take place in February, and we requested that the closure should be very well advertised, particularly where coaches started before the advertised time of the train. In future we must also press for advance warning so that prospective passengers can be given plenty of notice Wessex gave a preliminary report on the new timetable (a detailed report would be provided later), and for the first time more than 25,000 journeys had been made in an August four week period; journeys were also up by 9%, but this was also the average figure for Devon and Cornwall. Wessex had experienced mechanical problems with their fleet, and additional staff had been taken on to deal with this. From 27th September the Sunday service would be made up of six trains at two hourly intervals, and this service would continue throughout the year; alterations to the weekly timetable would be made in December and June. We asked for details of the Tamar Valley carnet system, and requested that a similar facility should be considered for the Barnstaple line; the Partnership promised to investigate and report back. We again raised the question of marketing the line during the "dead" period of November January and February, possibly Devonians just do not wish to travel at this time, but we will not find out unless we try. However there will be no marketing of this kind during this winter. We pointed out that the gap between the 9:51 and the 11:55 was too long, trains at this time appeal to the leisure market, and whereas 9:51 is reasonable for those living in Barnstaple, it is less so for the 40,000 population living in Fremington, Instow, Bideford, Appledore, and Westward Ho! At that time it is wise to allow at least 1¼ hours for the journey from Westward Ho! and Appledore. Also an 11:55 departure means an after 1 pm at Exeter city centre.
The Partnership would continue to carry out passenger counts on specific days in August, and it was suggested that passengers give details of their postcode. On Saturday 14th August the following counts were made: Train time From Barnstaple Total
08:53 46 55
09:51 98 116
11:55 151 162
13:54 74 76
15:53 47 51
Tuesday 17th August was the only day on which travel on the 06:42 and 07:47 was recorded, and it is interesting to note that the Barnstaple figures were 15 and 29 and the total figures 32 and 51. We asked that when the Barnstaple Downstream Bridge was completed signs to the railway station were prominently displayed The Partnership had run three music trains during the summer, and attendances had been good once it was made clear that the ÂŁ5 evening out fare was available. They would also be promoting the Devon Evening Out ticket, and new "Take a trip from Barnstaple" and "Tarka Line Rail Ale Trail" leaflets. Once again North Devon District Council were not represented at the meeting, even though it was held in Barnstaple, I leave it to others to decide whether their attendance would have been worthwhile. Hugh Butterworth
How about a trip to Holyhead We understand that a new twice daily service between Plymouth and Holyhead will begin shortly. The proposed departure times from Plymouth are 11.50 and 13.50, and from Holyhead 6.40 and 8.48. Why not spend a few days in the welsh Marches, Cheshire, or the North Wales resorts? A pleasant, trouble free journey from Exeter, but if you like looking out of the window donâ€™t forget that the train reverses at Newport! Seasoned Traveller
Response to Consultation Document "Moving Forward" October 2004 The potential of public transport to make an impact on traffic congestion is often underestimated. A very small modal switch can make a big difference. It is therefore imperative that any transport plan should consider ways of encouraging habitual car users to consider alternatives. This will only happen if the quality and scope of public transport is improved, together with improved public perceptions and user-friendly systems. We are surprised that no mention is made of rail related investment. Rail could play a more significant role in making public transport more attractive in Devon. Exeter Central station is well located to serve the city centre, and many other stations are well located to serve employment, leisure, shopping and education centres. There is also potential to increase the scope of rail services in some areas, e.g. by providing a station to serve Exeter airport and its associated business park. A rail journey from the latter to Exeter Central would take some 12 minutes, whereas the road journey takes half an hour or more depending on traffic conditions. This Group believes that the key elements to providing attractive rail services are: 1. The ability to provide regular clockface services throughout the day 2. Easy interchange between trains and buses, cars and cycles 3. A well publicised user friendly service Train Companies have been striving to achieve the first, but are stymied in many places by relatively minor infrastructure constraints. An example is the Salmonpool level crossing near Crediton, at which all trains having to slow to a crawl, thus adding to journey time and increasing costs. We feel the County Council should give a higher priority to securing the necessary investment to overcome such
problems. On the second point, much needs to be done. Buses that integrate with train services are commonplace in most European countries, but are a rarity in the UK. The Barnstaple western bypass will present new opportunities to integrate services, and we feel it is particularly important that the County Council promotes integration here, given that the station serves a large population across a wide hinterland. Our Group also believes that rural areas of mid-Devon could be provided with a quality rail service if some stations along the Barnstaple line were promoted as railheads with adequate car parking, and provide potential for feeder buses from places such as Winkleigh, Chumleigh, Torrington and South Molton. Secure cycle storage at rail stations needs to be improved. Generally, a more imaginative and user-friendly approach is needed for public transport. Integrated timetables, safe and secure waiting areas, off peak discounts, simple timetables and better publicity would all enhance and improve both bus arid rail services. Patrick Adams
The Case for Umberleigh The committee has approached Wessex requesting that Umberleigh be regarded as a Railhead, such that as many trains should stop there as possible. As the consultation paper previously circulated shows, 9,980 passengers used Umberleigh in the last year, compared to 3,895 at Kings Nympton, 571 at Portsmouth Arms, and 509 at Chapelton. Trains have to slow at Umberleigh anyway because of the adjacent level crossing, and there is reasonable parking space at the station. Umberleigh is at present well served by trains to Exeter, with 10 out of 12 services calling, additionally the 09:51 from Barnstaple should call at Umberleigh instead of Chapelton. Whether the 13:52 from Barnstaple could stop is doubtful, since the departure time cannot be advanced as the train only arrives at 13:49 having travelled non-stop from Eggesford. However 11 out of 12 services is no worse than the previous service. The down trains from Exeter are much less satisfactory, and it is not much good having a good up service if the passengers cannot return! Ignoring the 05:43 from Exeter, there are four non stopping services and we feel that the 15:52 from Exeter should call as it has an adequate turnaround time at Barnstaple. There is however an unacceptable 7 hour gap in stopping services between 08:33 and 15:40 and a way must be found to improve the situation. The committee will continue to press the case for Umberleigh and to consider ideas for increasing its use. Hugh Butterworth
Customers? â€“ Wot Customers? Or "Squaring the circle" or even "The irresistible force and the immovable object" Network rail has the unenviable tack of putting right the decades of under investment in the railway infrastructure. Much work has been done to our line, including strengthening the nineteen bridges and spending ÂŁ2 million on sleepers. Now Network Rail seems to be dealing mostly with routine maintenance, but unfortunately this is being done by blockading the line from Monday to Friday. The proposed closures for next year will be on the weeks commencing 21st and 28th February and 31st October and 7th November. This means that the line will be closed for 20 days, with the probability that this will be an annual occurrence. If any dates fall in the school half term holidays they will cause a severe financial loss, and a significant reduction in passenger numbers.
Network Rail is in a difficult position, it has to keep costs under control for the benefit of the long suffering taxpayer, and the easiest way to do this is to confine work to normal hours and avoid overtime. But at what cost? How much revenue is lost, not only during the blockades, but also after, as passengers continue to use alternative forms of transport, and what is the cost of hiring the replacement coaches? Could not the work be scheduled so that for some of the time trains could at least run on part of the line? If so there would be a substantial increase in revenue. Network Rail is run by engineers, and perhaps they are so engrossed with engineering problems that they tend to overlook the fact that the network is run for the customers, of more accurately, the fare paying customers. Hugh Butterworth
Readers Write Dear Sir I have just attended the AGM of the North Devon Rail Users group which was well attended and very interesting. Two very important railway officials were there, both gave a very interesting talk on railways and government policy under the item of any other business. Some very interesting questions were asked about our local railway line. Well, there's something we all know, soon there's going to be an election, and you and me are the most important part of it, we are the people who vote and I hope you will use yours. Politicians, local councillors, will get on their hands and knees to get your vote, this is the only time when we have got them and are able to ask them "will you support our railway line, and will you join our railway group and become members, if so I will vote for you irrespective of what political party you may belong to". Now about another thing, our railway line runs into the old Barnstaple Junction Station, at one time it ran into the town centre, and luckily the old Town Station is still there where we held the AGM. Well I suggest that we, the North Devon Rail Users Group try and get the railway line reinstated. Just look at the many extra passengers we would get, and it's within walking distance of the town centre and has a large car park near by. So let us all use the Town, or Parish Councillors to do something useful for us and let us all use them by seeing them in person or writing polite nice letters to them and reminding them "yes we all know it will cost money but how much money did it cost to rip up and destroy". They never told us that did they and why was it done? To save money I suppose, well look at Barnstaple now. If that railway station was in use now it would be very busy and there would be less traffic going over the bridge. If this railway line was a preservation line that is one thing they would do, reopen the old Station. So let us make a start now and write or see the local councillors about it, we are now paying the heavy price of Beeching's "close this close that ". Stanley Thomas
Sorry, there is no space for any more letters â€” Ed
Membership Matters If you know someone who you think might like to join NDRUG please contact the Membership Secretary.
New Members We welcome: Mr J. Beament, Down St Mary Mr & Mrs Johnston, Morchard Bishop
Committee Meetings (Members Welcome) Wednesday, 19th January; 19.00 Rising Sun, Umberleigh Wednesday, 9th February; 19.00 Rising Sun, Umberleigh