Issue 19, Spring 2005
Table of Contents
Editorial Maintenance work in progress north of Morchard Road in February
Chairman's Report Journey's End
It seems like a long time since I was putting together the last edition of the magazine as the days were getting shorter, and in fact the gap has been longer than usual. This is the first edition of what will now be a four monthly instead of a quarterly magazine. Publication dates may vary slightly but the issues will be Spring (end of March), Summer (end of July), and Autumn (end of October) - we hibernate for the Winter!
News from along the Torridge
There are two main reasons for making this change, firstly it is a cost cutting measure; as a totally voluntary organisation it is more and more difficult to cover expenditure now that (with certain exceptions) there is no support from external organisations. The reduction from four magazines to three will go some way to alleviating this. Secondly, it is becoming more and more difficult to fill these pages on a regular basis, again with certain exceptions there appears to be a dearth of home grown talent.
The Writing on the Wall?
Bideford 150 Celebrations Future Operations More than a Station Mitchell ready for new DfT post To charge or not to charge? National Express Group bidding for GW A New Face at Network Rail Rail Future Conference Passenger perception (1) Passenger Perception (2) Barnstaple Downstream Bridge An opportunity missed? The Museum of Barnstaple & North Devon The Holy Grail News Update & Miscellany
As you will have been aware we have just experienced another two week line closure, frustrating for those of us who are regular travellers, and possibly more so for those who are not, and are not aware of the situation. This time, however, there is better news to report, of which more inside. A few of our readers may have noticed that there is the possibility of a general election on the horizon, all of the main parties currently beating the drum on various topics they feel are relevant to the man in the street, (or is it the topics they can score points with!). Conspicuous by its absence is any mention from the main parties of transport policy of any kind. A trawl of the internet found on one party's site one page only derived from an article last year from a MP which starts 'We will make the railways work again'. Another party has on their site a 20 page document over 2 years old as their policy document.
Community Rail Puzzles along the Portsmouth line Temporary Bus Replacement Service The Tarka Line Working Party Eggesford Area Partnership Readers Write Membership Matters New Members Committee Meetings
This does not auger well for transport as a whole and rail in particular, so if by chance you should find someone on your doorstep asking for your vote, ask them about their transport policy, and in particular rural rail - I would be pleased to have details of the responses you get! Andy Hedges
Chairman's Report The Committee continues to work hard on your behalf. We have had a hectic schedule and workload, which has necessitated monthly meetings with much e-mailing in between! We were very pleased to welcome Julian Crow from First Great Western to our January meeting and, in February, Ian Baxter and Marcus Handley from London & Western Railway. Both are bidding for the new integrated Greater Western Franchise, which is
proposed to start in summer next year. They each gave a presentation and, more importantly, took away a clear understanding of our aspirations for the future. We hope to be able to welcome National Express (the current owner of Wessex Trains) and Go-Ahead in due course. At the time of writing we are still awaiting the details of the new timetable to be introduced in June. We continue to have excellent relations with Wessex Trains and have had two very positive meetings to discuss our aspirations for the service. The principle of the a railhead service based on NDRUG's 'Securing the Future' report has been accepted but there are understood to be problems in achieving this within a clockface hourly service. I shall be able to comment further in the next edition of the Magazine. One issue, which is of concern to regular travellers, is the arrival time in Exeter of the 0747 from Barnstaple. NDRUG was invited by Wessex Trains and the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership to assist in surveys of passengers on the first two trains of the day for a week in February. This showed a fairly even split between those who wanted the present arrangement to remain, and those would prefer one train instead of two and for it to arrive in Exeter around 0830. However, there was a strongly held view that even if two trains are retained, the second should arrive in Exeter Central by around 0840. There is no doubt that the number of passengers travelling on the two trains is fewer than travelled on the former 0712 from Barnstaple. Of concern, therefore, is the fact that less people are using the train to get to work or college. As most of you will know we have endured a further two-week Monday - Friday blockade of the line for engineering works. Details are on page 25 and, notwithstanding the inconvenience to passengers, it is nevertheless very pleasing to see that Network Rail are making investment in the line. We have established a dialogue with Network Rail and will seek to ensure that any further blockades are kept to a minimum, consistent with the amount of repair and renewal work necessary. The bus substitution seems to have worked much better this time following representations from NDRUG, although there are still a number of problems, which we will pursue on your behalf before any future blockade. I come now to a matter of potentially serious concern to us all. The Railways Bill currently passing through Parliament contains a lengthy section concerned with station and line closures. As presently proposed closure would be determined by the Office of Rail Regulation with no need for consideration of hardship, social, economic or environmental issues or reference to users (remember the Regional Rail Passenger Committees are to be abolished). Closure would be simply based on the grounds of cost. We have written to Lords Berkeley and Bradshaw urging that even if personal hardship cannot be taken into account, then social, environmental and economic factors should. As far as is known our line is not under immediate threat as it is a designated community railway. Nevertheless it is incumbent on us as a Group to remain vigilant. Consequently, please urge your friends and families to use the line as often as they can - and also suggest that they join NDRUG as the more members we have the stronger our voice can be. Finally we do desperately need a Committee member who lives in and can represent Barnstaple - is there anyone out there willing to help? If so, please contact David Smith our Membership Secretary who would be very pleased to hear from you. I hope that you all have an enjoyable summer and can make use of our line at least once: for a shopping trip perhaps or a day out in Exeter or Barnstaple. John Phillips Chairman
Journey's End If you had wandered along to Crediton railway station on a summer Sunday morning over the last few years, you may possibly have seen the frail figure of an elderly man being helped into the Okehampton train. You may later have seen the same man at Meldon Quarry, gazing long at a steam locomotive, a sparkle in his eye. In getting the best from his Sunday Rover ticket, you may then have discovered him boarding a bus from Okehampton station to destinations west. Or you may have caught a further glimpse of him at Plymouth, on his journey home. In less recent years he could have been seen walking briskly from his Colebrooke home along the path to Yeoford, on his way to catch a train to Barnstaple or to Exeter. But in his youth his years had really been blessed: spending many hours behind a Drummond
T9, a Light Pacific, or an N Class Mogul, comfortable on Bulleid, Maunsell or Warner cushions, he might be on his way to Bude, to Wadebridge, to Padstow. In the dreary cold greys of a February morning, or into the darkening golds of an August twilight, he went everywhere his native west country railway could take him. And in those days the scope for his travels was far greater. Having no private transport, his need for the railway was great, his love for it also was great, and his use of it no less so. His support for various railway development groups was unremitting. Never loquacious at meetings, he left all verbal meanderings to others, content to give the kind of support he knew best, the kind of support many advocates of rail travel all too commonly fail to observe: he used the trains. Throughout his days, he used them often and comprehensively. They were vital to his social needs; they took him where he needed to go; they enabled him to leave the valley in which he had lived all his life; and they brought him safely back to it again, home to his beloved farm by the railway line, to his animals, to the land he cherished as his parents had done before him. Quietly and modestly, while so many ranted politics and travelled to railway promotional meetings by car, he simply, stubbornly, consistently, used his railway. Leonard Gillard was born in 1931. He was taken into hospital on 16th February 2005, on his 74th birthday. He died on 9th March. On Friday 18th March the long, strident note of a train whistle was heard at Colebrooke Parish Church, sounding during the time Leonard's funeral service was taking place. Pre-arranged, it came from the 13.52 ex-Barnstaple as it passed by the village, the sound catching the wind, echoing its farewell to Leonard from the railway nestling in the valley below.
Leonard Gillard 1931-2005
News from along the Torridge Bideford 150 Celebrations Spring bank holiday weekend (28/29/30th May) will be a three-day event at Bideford station, similar to the annual open days, but Sunday 29th will be, as far as possible, a recreation of 1855, with a procession led by the mayor and local pipe band from Bideford Quay to the existing railway station. Everyone is welcome to take part and those prepared to dress up in period (or near) costume will be offered a free train ride! At Bideford station, the ceremonial first train will be "piped in", and various relevant events are being arranged during the day. Sunday 29th May coincides with Bideford's annual vintage transport event including road vehicles and the veteran schooner 'Kathleen and May'. Wessex Trains will feature a publicity stall on the station and a vintage double-decker will link both sides of the river. Later in the year a ceremony will take place at Cross Park (now Ethelwynne Browne Close sheltered accommodation) which was the actual 1855 (then) broad gauge terminus at Bideford. There will also be an exhibition in the Burton Art Gallery during September celebrating 150 years of Bideford's railway history.
Future Operations Staff permitting, Bideford station and Instow signal box will be open on most Sundays and Bank Holidays starting at Easter. Passenger services will commence on Easter Sunday and continue on Sundays and Bank Holidays throughout the summer, but this depends entirely on staff availability and public demand. We have to operate on strict rules similar to the national network which lay down that a specified number of trained staff are required for each passenger carrying movement, and in this connection we are anxious to hear from anyone interested in the train crew, platform staff, or signal box duties. The 14th annual Open Day will take place on Sunday August 14th from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm Alan Wilkinson Bideford and Instow Railway Group
More than a Station A few years have elapsed since the ÂŁ165 million upgrading of Paddington station was completed and all the ancillary structures are now in place. Long-distance passengers tend to arrive at a station in good time, particularly if their ticket restricts them to travelling on a particular train. So why not to take advantage of the facilities now available at Paddington? There are, naturally, numerous outlets for food and drink including the choices of coffees, Costa, Caffe Ritazza, Starbucks, and the Reef cafe bar. Then there are Upper Crust, Millies Cookies, Bagel Factory, Eat, Souper Douper, West Cornwall pasties (naturally), Taste, Burger King, Delice de France, and Yo Sushi. Alcohol is supplied by Fullers and Threshers; supermarkets are represented by Sainsbury's and Marks and Spencer, while remaining outlets include WH Smith (inevitably), Paperchase, Van Heusen, Tie Rack, Sock Shop, Accessorize, The Body Shop, Journey's Friend, Boots, Impulse, Argentas, Clinique, Abbey, Vodafone, and Paddington Bear! and if you are overwhelmed by the above why not pop into the MediCentre? Of course you can always patronise the train buffet which has the choice of over 100 items of food and drink, and on some trains you will find the travelling chef. On the other hand if you are an overweight shopaholic it might be better to stay at home! Hugh Butterworth
Mitchell ready for new DfT post Mike Mitchell, First Group's business development director, has been named director general of railways at the Department for Transport. Mr Mitchell, 56 will head the new rail division within the DfT which will take over many responsibilities from the soon-to-be disbanded Strategic Rail Authority. One task will be to decide who runs Britain's passenger rail franchises. First Group already runs four franchises and although Mr Mitchell has worked on some of the franchise bids a DfT spokesman denied there would be any conflict of interests. Mr Mitchell will take up his new post on 1st May. ÂŠ Rail Professional Magazine
To charge or not to charge? Further to my last little piece on the vagaries of the refuse arrangements at some of our local stations, has anyone noticed the differences on the subject of car parking? As a frequent visitor to Exeter St Davids delivering or collecting offspring ( before you comment, I do use my local station as and when there is a train available and convenient!), I normally use the 20 minute free parking spaces outside the main entrance (or one
of the few 1 hour slots opposite the taxi rank!). The same applies on the odd occasion of a Taunton delivery or collection, free 20 minute spaces just outside the main entrance, probably about 10 or 15 of them. Pity then the visitors to Barnstaple station, no such luxury here. If you wish to go and take advantage of the excellent travel centre, even if your business is only going to take 5 minutes, then in theory a ticket should be purchased. I have looked and looked, but nowhere can I find any reference to short stay parking, merely threatening signs advising severe penalties for not displaying a ticket. I don't know if this is a discouragement for users of the station or not, since I have never seen anyone checking parking tickets, and I certainly have never bought one; but it does seem a bit of anomaly, or is this a policy decision by Wessex who are responsible for Barnstaple, as opposed to FGW, who are responsible for St Davids and Taunton? Mmm. The Bagman
National Express Group bidding for GW Experienced manager Peter Cotton has been appointed managing director designate for the Greater Western franchise. Peter was previously Managing Director of ScotRail, where under his stewardship the company won two 'Rail Operator of the Year' awards. He is an experienced railway man having held senior positions at a number of train operating companies. Previously, he was Managing Director at Gatwick and Stansted Express and Deputy Managing Director at Great Eastern Railway. Prior to that, he held the position of Commercial Director at South West Trains.
A New Face at Network Rail From Jerry Swift, Account Director Community Rail, Network Rail Many of you will have read of my recent appointment to a new role in Network Rail, working with community rail partnerships (CRPs) across the country. This new post, which reports directly to Network Rail's Group Director, Government & Corporate Affairs, underlines the company's support for developing local and rural railways. For me, this is a job made in heaven. I am committed to the development of the railways as an accessible form of transport with good environmental credentials - and which can provide real opportunities for sustainable growth. Community rail is key to unlocking that growth potential. I am delighted to be in a position to work with those who will make that difference. I joined the rail industry six years ago after 10 years in the airline industry, working on terminal development, systems and latterly as project manager for British Airways' crew report centre at Heathrow. I started as stations projects manager for North Western Trains before moving to Railtrack in the North West. In my time with Railtrack and Network Rail I have worked on a number of station projects including the station regeneration project, asset protection, business planning and organisational change, as well as safety validation and work on elements of the railway safety case. For much of that time I was also the project manager responsible for the lease of the Wensleydale Railway, which led to its reopening in 2003 - one of the most rewarding moments of my career. I believe my new role will be equally rewarding, with four principal objectives: Working with the SRA, railway development companies and CRPs on the development of the seven pilot projects within the SRA's community rail strategy: Interfacing with community rail partnerships (CRPs), railway development companies and heritage railways across the country to work to deliver their projects and ensure Network Rail's resources are effectively deployed Interfacing with ACoRP and other stakeholders on wider policy issues relating to community railways Working with ACoRP (and the CRPs) on Network Rail's redundant estate for use by the communities in which it stands
(Some of these interface responsibilities will pass to the Department for Transport when the SRA is abolished.) Work has already started, and we are looking at the costs. We will be looking at possible enhancements that will improve usage and reduce costs, and we will work with industry partners in finding ways to fund them. Network Rail's engineers will work to develop innovative delivery solutions, which meet appropriate Railway Group Standards but which cost less. And we will build understanding of the long-term cost implications of those ideas. Our planning and regulation colleagues will examine the performance regime and other cost drivers. Our maintenance colleagues will help us understand the costs directly attributable to the route and the impact of various different scenarios. We will work to improve rail users' perceptions of the rail environment by various means, such as our innovative approach to the management of our existing estate, including returning redundant property to use in the community. Currently, Network Rail's remit is for the operations, maintenance and renewal of the rail network. The Government in its White Paper The Future of Rail outlined an expanding role for Network Rail, which will include some elements of enhancement to the network. This will be a challenging role for Network Rail, set against a background of ever-increasing demands for efficiency gains and ever-decreasing regulated income for the company. Plainly speaking, this means limited resources throughout the industry, and a subsequent need to focus on those projects that will bring real benefits to community railways. We are keen to work with community rail groups (including railway development companies and heritage lines) at the outset of projects to ensure they are deliverable and make the best use of the limited resources available. I am here to facilitate delivery of groups' ideas within existing constraints - one of which is Network Rail's regulatory settlement, which governs our funding activities and prevents us from committing resources to most enhancement schemes without suitable underwriting. I will identify likely Network Rail resource requirements and whether there is a reasonable prospect that we can provide them. I will also highlight to groups those elements that we will be able to do as part of our normal operations and therefore at nil or marginal cost, and those that are going to require expenditure as part of specific project streams. As a result, some projects may not make it to the end of the process. I intend to meet each of the community rail groups around the country each year, to understand their issues and concerns, and to identify any steps I can take to help their work. Network Rail continues to be approached about the disposal of redundant assets, including former routes and mothballed railways. With colleagues, I will develop our policy in this area, for which I will then be seeking approval from the Network Rail board and, if appropriate, from the Regulator. I will also work with colleagues to translate the ideas in the Government's Community Rail Development Strategy into appropriate policies, standards and procedures. This will include consideration of our involvement in railway development companies and CRPs. We would like to see railway buildings being used - particularly by local communities. Working with ACoRP and CRPs around the country, I will take some positive steps to address this. If we can identify suitable properties and suitable community-use tenants, Network Rail will make it as easy as possible to 'do the deal' to put these buildings back into productive use. This may mean less onerous leases in some instances, in other cases it may mean beneficial terms. It will certainly mean a flexible approach on our part, coupled with a pragmatic approach on the part of both CRPs and potential tenants and funders. We all need to work together to pull these deals together so that, ultimately, rail users benefit. I will also develop guidelines on how we identify suitable properties and suitable users. Network Rail wants to build and improve its relationship with CRPs, and we want to be as involved as we can be, as far as our remit allows. We are committed to securing enhancements and the funding for them, which must come from sources outside Network Rail. We know what we have to do to address our past deficiencies. This will take time to get right; there is no quick fix. This is a large agenda and the coming weeks I will make clear how much I can deliver against it. I very much look forward to working with all of you so that you can deliver the vision I think we all share for the future of Britain's railways. Reproduced courtesy of ACoRP
Rail Future Conference On the 4th of February the Rail Future Conference took place in London, with representatives from the rail industry, government, and associated organisations attending. One part of the proceedings was an opportunity for 'break-out' sessions to look as specific topics. Here are the findings of the two groups looking at passenger perception - do you recognise any of the points made?
Passenger perception (1) Leader: Anthony Smith, Director, Rail Passengers Council This was one of two groups asked to agree five points to improve passenger perception. The group came up with the following five main points: Deliver on promises and manage expectations. The aim should be to make travelling by train 'boring' i.e. trains that leave on time, are always the same length, always clean etc are not news but they work. Performance needs not just to consider punctuality but also the rest of the passenger experience: the stations, the staff, the information. Provision of accurate and honest information - tell passengers what is going on, not just in terms of operations and specific journeys but looking more long term, for example, about planned improvements, new trains, if necessary be repetitive. Don't forget non-users - look at and understand why people do not use the trains in their area, what would make them travel by train. Consider promotions - free ticket giveaways can often bring both new users and an accompanying fare paying passenger. Price of seats - concern about the future and how there may be a situation where the industry is charging more to travel by train but there are less opportunities to actually get a seat: people will rebel. Other considerations - the quality and appearance of stations; dealing with anti-social behaviour; improving staff training; having vision - give people something to focus on as 'good' within UK rail e.g. high speed rail line.
Passenger Perception (2) Leader: Graham Eccles, Executive Director, Stagecoach Group This was one of two groups asked to agree five points to improve passenger perception. Taking the main concerns of passengers as punctuality and safety, the group raised the following issues: Information throughout all stages of the journey was a concern. This applied before the journey, at the station and while on the train. Providing passengers with information on the reasons behind, and potential duration of, delays was seen as a particular area which affected passenger perception. Value for money of tickets was also identified. Passengers might be willing to accept higher fares in exchange for better services. More promotion of cheaper off peak fares and other offers was needed. There was public perception that the cost of travelling by train was high, as the cost of the most expensive tickets was normally all the media covered. The inability to get tickets quickly because of long queues at stations was also identified as causing frustration for passengers. Similarly, ToCs not collecting fares and the annoyance caused to paying passengers by fare dodgers were points raised. Overcrowding was a major concern for passengers, particularly in commuter areas. Changes to services, such as short train formations, could cause frustration for passengers. The perception of the competence of those running the railway was raised. This applied to all levels from train staff to those in charge. Specific examples included train companies not releasing return tickets over the Christmas period and some train crews being better at providing passengers with information than others. The absence of "consumer understanding" in the rail industry was raised. Comparisons were drawn with research that British Airways had done on how to make passengers feel comfortable in their environment. The point was made that there was a need to encourage people who do not normally use the railways to consider using them. Therefore this was not just about passenger perception but public perception of the railways. Need to identify who does not
use the railways and why. The impact that the behaviour of other passengers was raised as a concern. Both in terms of the effect on personal safety (such as threatening behaviour) and in causing general discomfort (e.g. eating food or talking on the phone). It was noted that trains were competing with the environment in the private car. Lack of personal space on trains was something which put some people off travelling by rail. The two previous points were linked with the safety and security of the passenger environment. Litter and graffiti were also mentioned in that context, with graffiti considered to be the more unpleasant for passengers. The group's five key recommendations were: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Provision of accurate information throughout the journey. Give value for money on tickets. Increase the perception of a competent industry. Collect fares. Increase passengers' sense of personal security on trains and at stations.
(I wonder when 'customers' metamorphosed back into 'passengers'! Ed)
Barnstaple Downstream Bridge Reproduced with the permission of Devon County Council As readers who live at the northern end of the line will be aware, work has started in various places on the downstream bridge and the associated infrastructure. One area of particular interest is the work currently under way in remodelling the road junction at the current entrance to the station. Below you will find a plan of the works around this area of the development which may help to clarify what is happening or about to happen. The intention is to create a bus only link between Sticklepath Hill (which will become a no through route for other forms of transport) and the railway station, buses then continuing into town past B& Q, Halfords, etc. This will require the removal of the car parking along the north eastern edge of the car park, but extra spaces will be created over the line of the old trackbed to Bideford. The result of the changes should be an increase in the number of buses serving the station, though only for services from the south and south-westerly directions, but making it a more effective interchange point than it is currently. The downside, of course, is the potential severing of the original trackbed towards Bideford. When approached about this, DCC and Nuttalls representatives provided no clear answer , but the indications on the plan overleaf are that the access arrangements for the Tarka Trail are due to be in pedestrian/cycleway tunnels under part of the new construction work and the old trackbed will be under the new embankment
The model of the whole development should be on permanent exhibition in Barnstaple Museum from the middle of March onwards. Andy Hedges
The Writing on the Wall? Beltring Station on the Medway Valley line in Kent is to be virtually closed because only 23 people use it each day; or one passenger for every two trains. These figures include rush hour trains - off-peak services are even more lightly used. The Kent division of Railfuture commented that 'Beltring station, which is slated for reduction to 1 Parliamentary train a week under the SRA proposals, is only a short walk from The Hop Farm ("Kent's most popular family attraction" in it's 2004 brochure). An all-in rail and entrance ticket is available including a courtesy bus link between Paddock Wood & the farm but this ticket is NOT valid at Beltring station. It is very easy to claim that a station is poorly used when you direct most of your potential users to a different station! ' Using the figure of 23 passengers a day equates to 8300 per year, and if you can recall the station usage figures from the 'Securing the Future' document you will see that only Barnstaple, Eggesford, Credition, and Umberleigh (just) would fulfil this criterion, all others would be closed ! Beware - it could happen here! Anon
An opportunity missed? At last construction of Barnstaple downstream bridge has begun. During negotiations rumours abounded that the materials required might be transported to the site by rail. It seems that some materials may be obtained locally but much has to be brought in from outside the area. Further rumours suggest that the idea of rail transport was discarded because the cost of upgrading the line was too high. This might be the case when considered in isolation, but the upgrading could have been permanent. Is it absolutely certain that Barnstaple will never see rail freight again? There are for example rumours that the area is running short of landfill sites. If this is the case then the only alternative to rail will be transport by road with all its unsatisfactory characteristics. Was an opportunity missed? it will be some years before we know the answer. "Onlooker"
The Museum of Barnstaple & North Devon What, you may ask yourself, is this article doing in this magazine, and whilst I agree that it is not directly rail related, there are several points (no pun intended) of connection to be made: Firstly let us not forget the excellent exhibition mounted last year to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the line, secondly they are custodians of the historical context of the line, which, if Mr Darling has his way, may be all we have left. Lastly, and more currently, they are one of ten museums nationwide shortlisted for the Gulbekian prize, worth ÂŁ100,000...the publicity if they win must surely generate an increase in passenger numbers! With a full time staff of five, supported by 21 volunteers, the Museum of Barnstaple & North Devon decided to create a research and community project based on local Arts and Crafts furniture manufacturer (and the town's largest employer), Shapland & Petter, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2004. The move was prompted by the acquisition of the company's design archive from successor company Leaderflush Shapland
The exhibition, which is bringing together oral history, digitisation and design research, has gained an unstoppable momentum in the region, says Development Manager, Alison Mills. The museum has received a steady stream of people wanting to get involved in the project, with many contributing their own artefacts and memories. Members of the local community - secondary school children, retired employees, unemployed people, present workers and their families - have joined together to explore, record and create in their own ways the story of Shapland & Petter. First-hand experiences of Shapland & Petter's past and current employees and their families have been captured in sound, video and text and fifteen new volunteers have joined the Museum to work specifically on the project. The project will culminate in a major exhibition in May and June 2005, when visitors will have the opportunity to see for themselves the Barnstaple company's importance to the Arts and Crafts design movement. And there will be a permanent digitised archive to demonstrate the range and quality of the company's work, and the production values which still inform the present-day workforce. Andy Hedges (I'm sorry to say that the museum did not make the final four, but go and see the exhibition anyway-by train! Ed)
The Holy Grail Although I appreciate that nothing that I say or write is in any way memorable, I'm still slightly disappointed that neither of my regular readers can recall anything about the occasional series which I have written over the years regarding the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail is the restoration of direct rail links between Barnstaple and London Waterloo. To the outsider it is probably surprising that there has been anything at all to write about upon the subject. In fact there have been enough ups and downs to enable me to write various articles, one of which was based upon the game of snakes and ladders. When South West trains took over the Waterloo to Exeter service it comprised an hourly service to Salisbury and a two-hourly one to Exeter. Subsequently the hourly service was extended to Gillingham and the December timetable pushed it further west to Yeovil Junction. From the Exeter end additional trains now run as far as Honiton. Recently I took part in a survey on the Honiton service, when passengers were asked to choose five improvements out of a list of choices, and I was surprised how often the subject of overcrowding was raised. This was despite the strengthening of most services from three to six coaches. Further problems will arise with the development of Broadclyst which could produce a substantial increase of traffic to Exeter. Devon County Council is, together with the local authorities along the route, various members of Parliament, and business organisations, currently campaigning for the provision of sufficient in passing loops between Yeovil and Exeter to allow the provision of an hourly service. The stumbling block is, as ever, finance; with the cost of each passing loop estimated at an incredible ÂŁ1.5 million or thereabouts. The campaign must continue until it is successful and then we may see the occasional train continuing from Exeter to Barnstaple. Hugh Butterworth
News Update & Miscellany Despite murmurings and some efforts (99.9% unsuccessful) to regain to rail some of the vast amounts of freight lost over the years the ever-larger and more 'efficient' road vehicles constantly ply the main roads into and out of the South West. The freight traffic now still carried by rail in the South West can be summarised as follows:The major traffic remains china clay, principally from about 5 loading points to Fowey Docks, and traffic from these same locations, plus Par Harbour, of clay powder (and slurry from Burngullow) to about 6 destinations in the UK. There is also some export traffic to Europe including a couple of wagons a week of ball clay from Heathfield. The only other outward traffic from the South West is a weekly train of scrap metal from the Cattewater branch in Plymouth to S.Wales.
Traffic flows to the South West are bitumen from Fawley Refinery to Cattewater and loco fuel from Fawley to Exeter, Laira, St Blazey, and Long Rock depots. An almost daily train of bulk and bagged cement runs from Earles Sidings, Hope to Moorswater near Liskeard, and a train of stone runs when required (a couple of times a month) from Merehead Quarry to Exeter Riverside Yard. Sadly when people suggest a Rail freight service to Barnstaple the reality is it's just not going to happen, when one particularly bears in mind that the brand new rail connected freight terminal just east of Swindon has never had any rail traffic and the Didcot Milton terminal has been disused for several years.In addition to the large number of stored locos and coaches at Meldon Quarry, Dartmoor Railway has recently become home to two 3 car "Hampshire" diesel units. These will no doubt be used in due course on their Okehampton/Meldon/Sampford Courtenay shuttle trains, which for several months, following failure of their class 08 loco, have been formed of a class 73 electro diesel, 3 coaches and a class 47, not a very economic train to operate but nevertheless of interest & rarity. Following the success of last year's Wine & Dine train ,the programme has been increased to the train running on 26 days this year; full details from 01837 55637. A Driving Trailer, boasting first class compartments as well as second class open plan seating, from a former SR electric unit has recently arrived at Bideford station, in full working order, for use on the diesel shunter operated shuttle trains that will be running regularly this summer . The B& IRG plan to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first train at Bideford with a series of events on 28 to 30 May, including shuttle trains formed with their diesel loco and freight brake van. Trains are also scheduled to run each Sunday until 11 Sept (full details at www.bidefordrail.co.uk) The Lynton & Barnstaple railway carried over 12,000 passengers between its re-opening on 17 July and 31 Dec 2004.Trains are now running again on most days until 30 Oct; a visit to Woody Bay station (near Parracombe on the A39) is an experience not to be missed, full details from 01598 763487. Tony Hill
Community Rail What do Devon County Council, West Devon District Council, Torridge District Council, Bere Ferrers Parish Council, the campaign to open Blackford Station and more than 100 Councils, organisations, Members of Parliament and private individuals have in common? They all responded to the consultation paper on a Strategy for Community Railways. It is regrettable that apparently neither the North Devon District Council nor the Mid Devon District Council nor the MP for North Devon were able to reply to by far the most constructive document which has been or is ever likely to be produced in relation to rural railways. If this country is ever going to have improved rural services serving and being an integral part of rural life then it is vital that we all combine to do all that we can to ensure that the strategy for community railways is implemented as far as possible. Andy Hedges
Puzzles along the Portsmouth line Being a simple soul it is but rarely that I stray beyond the confines of North Devon. However, recently, I enjoyed a short stay in Crawley in West Sussex and I took the opportunity to visit Portsmouth and Brighton (I still like to do a little light missionary work occasionally). So one morning I was standing on the platform of Crawley Station waiting for the arrival of the delayed 09.59 to Portsmouth Harbour. The delay was only 13 minutes but even so a charming lady explained over the loudspeaker that the delay was due to the late arrival of the incoming train at Victoria. She ended by stating that she was extremely sorry for the delay and the inconvenience caused. I replied that I thought that we both were but she declined to take the conversation any further. This gave me an opportunity to study the train information indicator; Southern continue the old Southern Railway practice of running its trains in portions and dividing them during the journey. I noted something which puzzled me, though doubtless the solution would have occurred instantly to Mr S. Holmes of Baker Street. The indicator showed that the front four coaches were for Portsmouth Harbour calling at Horsham, Christ's Hospital, Billingshurst, Pulborough, Amberley and Arundel. The rear four coaches were for
Bognor Regis calling at Horsham, Pulborough and Arundel. How, I wondered, did the rear four coaches travel faster than the front four, would they suddenly overtake us beyond Horsham? Was the indicator wrong? No, because the charming young lady returned to confirm the running order. The train duly arrived, one of Southern's new trains (a 377 for the technically minded) and the information on the side confirmed that it was the train's ambition to reach Portsmouth Harbour, further confirmation was provided inside the train. All intermediate stops were listed and these were gradually dropped as we proceeded. The train was clean and comfortable with large picture windows and would have done great credit to the Tarka line. We stopped uneventfully at Horsham and then at Christ's hospital all was revealed. The charming lady in Crawley was perfectly correct, the Bognor Regis portion did not stop at Christ's Hospital but just outside it! The platform was only long enough to accommodate the Portsmouth portion. At a windswept and rather unwelcoming station called Barnham the train divided and the Bognor Regis portion toddled off to the seaside. We continued our journey and I noticed that the information system had been switched off. Mr S. Holmes of Baker Street would instantly have been put on enquiry but I being a simple North Devonian thought nothing of it. It was only after we left Havant that the significance of the missing information was revealed. We were not, after all, going to Portsmouth Harbour! A disembodied voice told us that because it was late the train would terminate at Portsmouth and Southsea. As we trundled into Portsmouth and Southsea so my Southern train was already leaving on its return journey to the Great Wen; and so we arrived triumphantly at Portsmouth Harbour, and I swallowed my seasickness pills in anticipation of an epic voyage upon the Gosport Ferry. Hugh Butterworth
Temporary Bus Replacement Service 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 February/March, with train services replaced by road transport. I have deliberately refrained from using the usual word because as the Macmillan English Dictionary points out - 'bustitution - in Britain, the term is often used to describe a cost-cutting device implying closure of minor railway routes which struggle to remain financially viable, thereby releasing funds for the maintenance of main lines and London commuter routes'. This is not the impression we want to give! Unlike the previous line closure there was usable information posted at stations in good time, and A4 handouts were available for passenger's use, so apparently our previous comments reached the right ears. Points raised from this occasion were the absence of ticket checks at anywhere other than Barnstaple, where the staff were on the ball as usual; and the lack of differentiation between the fast and stopping services which confused prospective passengers at intermediate stations. Despite traffic problems at the Barnstaple end due to partial closure of the A361, and also at Umberleigh on the occasions that up and down coaches met at the river bridge, the service seemed to work well, but it cannot be recommended as an efficient replacement for the rail service. Andy Hedges
The Tarka Line Working Party This working party is a committee set up and chaired by Devon County Council and administered by the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, it meets three times a year. The outline programme for the Greater Western Franchise is as follows. Expressions of interest had to be received by 2nd February and a list of the qualifiers will be announced in the spring. Invitations to tender will be issued in the summer and final selection made during winter 2005/2006.
Our chairman John Phillips has been appointed Community Rail Development Manager for the Tarka line for one year from February. He will work from home for three days a week. It is up to al of us to help make this appointment a success so that funding can be obtained for future years. Tarka line rail ale trail leaflets were published in spring 2002 and to date 75 leaflets have been returned; a new leaflet is being produced. Christmas shopping journeys to Barnstaple & Exeter were encouraged with a ÂŁ5 return fare on the 15.55 from Barnstaple. We asked that this be extended to the 13.52 in future, as shoppers may well prefer to return before the last train. The results will be analysed and it was suggested that although last-minute shopping this year was popular, shopping expeditions of this kind may well have been made earlier. Two music trains were run in December; the last train to Barnstaple carried over 100 one week and 88 the next, a big increase on the usual 20 or so. A Group called the Eggesford Area Partnership has been set up and it has already met three times. Eggesford is becoming more important as a railhead, and negotiations are in progress with a view to extending the car park. Passenger counts on specific dates are continuing through the year. By early December 224,000 passenger journeys had been made compared with 209,000 in 2003. August and September figures were disappointing, possibly due to the poor weather. We asked for trains to be strengthened wherever possible during the peak season. The Group Save ticket was, we understand, suspended during August for fear of overcrowding; this at a time when we should be encouraging as many tourists as possible to explore Devon. The Wessex train fleet was still causing problems, though fewer than before; the single coach fleet will be refurbished during the spring and autumn. The long-awaited improvement at Eggesford level crossing should be completed shortly and this will make the very tight timetable a little more robust. The group's railhead initiative is still very much alive and it is hoped that the service to Umberleigh will be improved in the June timetable; Wessex confirmed its ambition to introduce an hourly timetable. The line closure situation was heavily criticised, as it was felt that closure for 20 days each year was unacceptable; however Network Rail pointed out that it was still dealing with a back of maintenance and will need these closures both this year and next. This is the result of the maintenance holidays in the 1970s and 1980s. Network Rail has had to spend ÂŁ2 million on renewing sleepers. All 19 bridges have been strengthened where necessary and flooding has not been a serious problem over the last few years. We asked if evening services could be run on the last Friday and possibly the first Friday. Also perhaps work on the Exeter end could be completed first so the trains can operate on part of the line at least some of the time. The committee was also very definite that it wished to see adequate notices of replacement bus services being widely distributed. The Tamar Line experiment of pre-selling books of 10 tickets at reduced prices has proved successful and is being extended to the end of the Wessex franchise. One in six journeys on the line is now being made by this method. Investigations are being made in order to see whether the tickets will be suitable for the Tarka line. The Exeter-Exmouth-Starcross-Exeter round trip ticket will be available again this year. Rover tickets are being altered; there will be a Tarka Line Day Ranger which will allow multiple journeys on the line. There will also be a Devon Ranger and a Devon and Cornwall Rover which will extend to Taunton. Fares were raised by 4% in January but there are no plans to raise them further this year. The 2 for 1 rail offer was welcomed and analysis of the results will be awaited with interest, particularly as it is an attempt to encourage travel during the dead winter period. We asked for information regarding the Devon Railcard renewals as it was felt that there may be reluctance on the part of cardholders to renew. This will be looked at by our new community rail development manager. Although Mid Devon is not a natural tourist area, the district council are combining with Exeter and East Devon to promote tourism
and already have had considerable success as measured by the numbers of bed occupancies. It is understood that planning application has been submitted relating to the Barnstaple stationmaster's house. It was pleasing to see that both North Devon and Mid Devon District Councils were represented at the meeting; the next meeting is on 11th May 2005 in Barnstaple. Hugh Butterworth
Eggesford Area Partnership So what exactly is the Eggesford Area Partnership? Well, it is a recently formed group of local organisations who have put together an action plan to improve promotion of, and welcome for, visitors to the Eggesford area. What started off as a 'Wouldn't it be nice if...' conversation between Graham Dallyn of the Forestry Commission, Jonathan Parish of Eggesford Gardens and myself, last September, is now a partnership which also includes local businesses, local and county council representatives, residents and other interested organisations, including the North Devon User Group. The overall objective of the partnership is to raise the profile of Eggesford to locals and tourists, to encourage the use of public transport to the area, to help reduce congestion on the roads and to improve the station area to encourage use. There have been no shortage of excellent ideas, but as always, they need to be prioritised to take account of resources available. Current plans include: The update and re-print of a leaflet to encourage people to visit Eggesford by train and find their way around the area. Produce a welcome poster for the station. To improve website promotion of Eggesford. To improve, and lobby for improvements to the station area. Work with local partners to identify needs, work for improvements and respond to opportunities. Progress so far: The plan to update the leaflet is progressing well; we have agreed changes and are currently talking to printers. Information about setting up a website and possible sources of funding are being considered. Footpath and other improvements to the area are being carefully looked into. Cutting back of overgrown bushes where children wait at the station has taken place, thanks to Network Rail. It is very encouraging that so much has been achieved in such a short space of time, which just goes to show what can be achieved when groups have the will to work together. Even though the organisations involved have very different agendas, histories and frameworks to work within, we have been able to come together and use different skills, knowledge and resources to help bring plans to fruition. Watch this space - or should I say Eggesford - for more information! Lyn Winter Rural Transport Partnership Officer Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership
I seem to remember a correspondent suggesting that the railway might be reinstated as far as Shapland & Petter. if the railway is to be usable and popular, it's got to cross the Taw. I think Stanley Thomas has got the right idea, but I have another. The narrow gap, where the railway used to cross the Taw next to Shapland & Petter, beside the road bridge in Barnstaple, still exists. I'd like to see a new platform on stilts being provided above the river, just next to, and parallel with, the road bridge. Passenger access would be via a ramp leading to the pathway near the fountain. The railway could be high enough not to breach the flood defences. Foot passengers would use Barnstaple Bridge station and those with cars could use the car park at Barnstaple Junction as at present. Barnstaple Bridge station would be well placed for the High Street and the bus station. I feel the above would be better than the alternative which would be to reinstate the line over the old railway bridge over the Taw, followed by laying a new line through Rock Park to the Albert memorial clock tower. Such an arrangement would require two reversals to reach Barnstaple. As regards the clock face timetable, this seems to me to be a sacred cow. What's it for? How can it be justified to close stations such as Umberleigh for seven hours in the middle of the day? The Tarka Line just doesn't allow a clockface timetable because Barnstaple's too far from Exeter. There are three ways a clockface timetable could be achieved. One: make the Journey time two hours. Two: make the trains go faster. Three: have a service from Exeter St Davids to the up platform of Eggesford and a single-car shuttle between the down platform and Barnstaple Bridge. At present, the layout of Eggesford doesn't allow crossplatform interchange between the Exeter service and the Barnstaple Bridge service because Eggesford hasn't got an island platform but where there's a will... Alternatively, the two trains could occupy the Up platform under permissive working arrangements. Mr G.Wilson
Being a regular user of the line, I appreciate the efforts made by more active members. Like many others, I have long had the idea of bringing back the railway to Ilfracombe and Bideford. However, I have recently leaned towards the idea of a tramway between Bideford and Braunton. The advantage of this is, firstly, the cost with a light railway being much cheaper to build and operate and, more importantly, the ability of vehicles to take sharp bends. Suggested route would start at Bank End in Bideford, run all the way along the Quay (act as park and ride for the car park), over the old bridge (bend no problem) along Barnstaple road and through Ethel Wynne Estate (avoid climb over bridge). It would then follow track to Barnstaple Junction for connection with rail network. Reverse out of there, over Barnstaple Long Bridge and left along Strand and follow track to Braunton. Park and Ride facilities could be initiated at Pottington and also somewhere near the new downstream bridge. The tramway would allow for a path one side and a cycleway the other. Separation of these facilities is long overdue. The one exception to this would be Instow where walkers and cyclists would have to use the pleasant detour along the sea/river front. I cannot see that the new bridge will help traffic problems in Barnstaple, especially coming from this direction. Car usage is going to increase thus adding to the global warming effect. Having travelled on trams in this country, the advantages are immense. I would be interested to hear from other members of the group about my suggestion. Incidentally, has provision been made for a tunnel under the new road to facilitate the possibility of reopening the railway? I know it was under consideration but I do not know the outcome. I look forward to any response to this. Guy Fenton
We are all concerned about the articles indicating rural line closures that have appeared in the press. Try to vote for the Liberal Democrats to fight this, the General Election will be this May. If the Community Rail proposals happen can we take over from Wessex and South West trains on the Exeter - Barnstaple and Okehampton lines? would it be possible? - fingers crossed. Ian Douglas
Membership Matters If you know someone who you think might like to join NDRUG please contact the Membership Secretary whose address is shown opposite.
New Members We welcome: Mrs R V Stanbury, Exmouth Mr C W Redwood, Topsham Mr A Bowman, Barnstaple Ms C Lewry, Eggesford Mr N James, Torrington Mr J O Kift, Braunton Mrs A Baldwin, Ilfracombe
Committee Meetings (Members Welcome) Wednesday, 20th April at 19.00 - Rising Sun, Umberleigh Wednesday, 18th May at 19.00 - Fox & Hounds, Eggesford Wednesday, 6th July at 18.30 - Castle Centre, Barnstaple