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Further study of new route via Okehampton as Dawlish alternative

The Department for Transport has confirmed Network Rail is to take forward an alternative route to the vulnerable Dawlish line, which collapsed in last winter’s storms.

Network Rail will conduct a further feasibility study into a route via the north side of Dartmoor, through Okehampton, at the government’s request – despite warning earlier this year that ‘Option 3’, as it was known, offered poor value for money, with a benefit-cost ratio of just 0.14. This is far below the usual criteria.

Details of the new study emerged in the government’s six-year National Infrastructure Plan. It stated funding will be provided to protect the Dawlish coastal route, which has previously been announced and could amount to a £350m injection.

It goes on to state that Network Rail will examine “alternatives to the current mainline route to the South West via Dawlish”.

As previously reported by RTM, Network Rail conducted a West of Exeter Route Resilience Study earlier this year, which looked at alternatives to the Dawlish route, including the one via Okehampton, however it found that none offered sufficient value for money. Instead the quango planned to look at options to further strengthen the existing railway.

Coming in at a cost of £875m the former London & South Western Railway route from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton was the most expensive option examined.

A DfT spokesman said: “We will be working with the local authorities and local enterprise partnership to undertake a feasibility study into re-opening that route.”

Chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, added: “We're looking at two things - the first is how can we strengthen that railway line further and the second is, is there an alternative route? The idea of reopening the line through Okehampton for example – we have got Network Rail now doing a very detailed piece of work so we make sure we have got all the options on the table based on the next rail spending period .”

The new study is to be completed by spring and could form a part of CP6 spending plans.

Also in the new infrastructure plans it says bidders for the next Anglia rail franchise, which will start in October 2016, will be encouraged within the bidding process to submit plans for reducing journey times between Norwich and London to 90 minutes.

(Image: c. Ben Birchall/PA Wire)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Dr.Peter Long   05/12/2014 at 15:20

the trouble with bcr is that it ignores social and environmental factors,amongst many others,as past bcr assessments have consistently shown.bere alston-meldon is a winning route when a holistic assessment is made.the cp6 project needs to take account of the existing research already available from the universities of plymouth and of gloucester.

Edgar Valentine   05/12/2014 at 20:29

Big negative of the Okehampton route is that it still leaves Torbay (Newton Abbot to Dartmouth) cut off when Dawlish has problems; do we expect trains to go to Plymouth and then come back to Newton? What is wrong with the Ashton / cheapest alternative route?

Andrew Long   06/12/2014 at 09:34

Bere Alston - Tavistock reopening was being considered as part of new housing proposed for Tavistock. Devon County Council are interested in the former "Southern" route, but it is not clear whether their update to LTP3 includes reopening; it would help, if it did!

Graeme   10/12/2014 at 09:54

One thing I am curious about is whether there is likely to be a journey time benefit. The Okehampton route appears shorter and straighter and there is no doubt that journey times to Cornwall could do with some downward pressure. Presumably a reopening of the line would result in the construction of a triangular junction in the vicinity of Cowley?

Chris Bligh   15/02/2015 at 19:21

The shortest route was NOT considered resilient by Network Rail. It was closed to freight due to severe flooding.The line is actually 5 miles longer. However speeds on the section between Exeter and near Okehampton could be as high as 110mph in places. Time wise it could be similar to the current route. Whilst Torbay would not be cut off any more than they are now which is why the current route MUST remain the main line. Plymouth and Cornwall would still be connected. Much is heard about reversal times and it taking 40 minutes longer, at least locally in Plymouth. This is total Nonsense!!! The Golden Hind would take around the same time as now from Penzance with 2 reversals and the 05.53 from Plymouth would actually be slightly quicker to London with 1 reversal. Of course Newton and Totnes would not be served, other than by a service to Plymouth or rail replacement bus services. Of course if trains are diverted as this weekend (Via Yeovil) then NO reversal would be required from Plymouth and only 1 from Cornwall. A freight chord would be usefukl near Cowley but it would be madness not to serve Exeter, the second busiest station in Devon. Of course the Okehampton route has the added benefit of economic regeneration etc of which Dr Long states.

Paul Hooper   14/05/2015 at 18:04

This route has to be looked upon on more than just a cost basis. The tunnel detour around Dawlish may serve a short term aim but still keeps all the services in the south of the county. The Okehampton route would give many benefits.. a) Secure alternative to Dawlish (mainly winter use) b) Additional freight capacity c) Access to national rail links for central, north & west Devon d) Potential revenue generation as a tourist scenic line during the summer months. It's a 'no brainer' if anything other than the short term is considered.

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