Tavistock railway project moves up the list

By Phil Stoneham   |   Reporter   |
Saturday 18th December 2021 12:00 pm
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Bere Alston Station by Nigel Thompson ()

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PLANS to bring trains back to Tavistock have taken a step forward after being put firmly on the Government’s ‘map’ of railway projects, according to a senior Devon transport official

Damien Jones, the county’s head of transport coordination, said the long-awaited restoration of the Tavistock-Bere Alston link had moved up in the list of Department for Transport (DfT) projects.

He said that was because the Government had handed a £50,000 grant to the county council to prepare a business case for the restoration of the line, closed in 1968.

Mr Jones revealed preparatory work had been carried out by Network Rail on signalling at Bere Alston, which has a rail link with Plymouth and Gunnislake in advance of the return to trains to Tavistock.

And he said part of the reason that was happening was that Government officials had woken up to the fact that bringing the railway back to Tavistock would connect the West Devon market town with Plymouth.

Mr Jones told West Devon Borough councillors: ‘It’s the first stage in the journey. There are hundreds of projects (around the UK) on the shortlist, but we can move this forward.

‘There is quite a lot of work which has been done already and (our project) has got the potential to leapfrog other schemes.

‘If we can get a business case, we know a number of DfT officers are keen on this project and we could draw down more development funding to get the scheme moving forward.’

Mr Jones said the county council would be adding £20,000 towards the cost of the business case and added it was tactically a better idea to ‘sell’ the project as linking Tavistock to Plymouth, rather than Bere Alston as understandably not a lot of people in Government would know where Bere Alston was.

He said the plan was to run an increased service into Plymouth via St Budeaux and Devonport Dockyard, which would require signalling ‘solutions’ so that Bere Alston would be able to cope with the increased rail traffic without interfering with the branch line services to Gunnislake. That preparatory work, he said, would help prevent any potential problems in the future.

Railway supporters have been impressed with the speed that the recently-reopened Okehampton to Exeter rail link was restored by Network Rail, which was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. That has given them some hope that a similar project between Tavistock and Plymouth might be around the corner if the Government comes up with the necessary funding.

Mr Jones said the Okehampton line had received a setback as the Government had not granted them any money towards a parkway station at the eastern end of the town. But he made it clear that the county council, which has already committed £130,000 towards the scheme, would not give up and would be making further submissions for Government funding.

He said Network Rail were already working on a survey for the station, which would be Okehampton’s second and it was a disappointment that they had not received funding.

The second station is seen as vital to connect outlying communities such as Torridge and north Cornwall with the national rail network.

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