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County derails plan to reopen Barnstaple to Bideford railway

By This is Devon  |  Posted: March 04, 2010

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DEVON County Council has dealt a blow to hopes of re-opening the Barnstaple to Bideford railway line.

Ian Harrison, the council's deputy executive director of environment, economy and culture, said the council did not believe there was a case for reinstating the railway.

Torridge District Council had, in principle, supported the re-opening the 15-mile line, which could cost around £80 million and wrote to the county council asking for support.

Responding by letter to the district council Mr Harrison said the costs of re-opening the line "would outweigh the benefit."

He said the Association of Train Operating Companies had also concluded the line was not viable. He added that the county council was keen to support rail travel and had been actively engaged in enhancing services on the Barnstaple branch.

"Although the county council does not believe there is a case for reinstating the railway to Bideford it is very keen to see interchange between bus and rail services at Barnstaple Station," he wrote.

"Finally, the county council would not wish to undermine in any sense the tremendous benefit provided by the Tarka Trail cycle and pedestrian route."

He pointed out patronage of trains had increased by 80% over the past eight years and two additional trains from Barnstaple to Exeter from December 2008 had been running.

Cllr Sam Robinson said he regretted the letter's negative tone. And Bideford Railway Heritage Centre spokesman, Lewis Andrews believed the line would be easy to open as it was still in the ownership of one body and had not been developed.

He disputed Mr Harrison's interpretation of reports and did not believe the scheme has been ruled out on viability.

He said: "The ATOC identified the Bideford line as a route for reopening and it was not true that is was identified as unviable. If this were the case, it would not have been included and costed at £80m." He believed the line would cater for both locals and tourists.

He said support to open the former line had grown since the James May's Toy Stories when the presenter unsuccessfully attempted to construct the world's longest model railway between Barnstaple and Bideford.

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    Nick, Devon  |  March 26 2011, 7:07PM

    Supporting the Exeter to Barnstaple line and extending the route to Bideford are two different things. Barnstaple is much bigger than any other town in the North Devon, and service improvements cost much less than rebuilding a line. The county council are right on this one, and the only new station on the Salisbury line that makes sense is for the new town at Cranbrook.

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    Brian George, Nottingham  |  March 25 2011, 9:54AM

    I quite agree that there is a positive case for re-opening this line. Devon County councils negative attitude by Mr Harrison is strange when you consider that they have in the past given support financially to the Barnstaple to Exeter line and also supported the sunday running of services to Okehampton. And are trumpeting the wish to have more stations built on the Exeter to Salisbury line. I would suggest that Mr Harrison is 'off message' on this one.

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    John, Tavistock  |  March 05 2010, 11:10AM

    Mr Woo, Ah yes,forgot about the greasy palms factor! LOL.In all seriousness,it is a massive difference though,i wonder where they got that figure from? OK, if and when the Tavvy line is rebuilt,the cost will probably be higher than £18m,but even so,it still seems to be a hell of a lot cheaper than the BidBarn line.

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    mr woo, barnstalpe  |  March 05 2010, 9:51AM

    to john tavistock.. your forgetting paying for all the corrupt officials involved 20 mill for the new line 60 mill for all the BS involved in n devon lol

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    John, Tavistock  |  March 04 2010, 2:13PM

    DCC are probably concentrating their attention and funding on reopening the Tavistock to Bere Alston line at the moment.Maybe Bideford to Barnstaple will be supported by DCC in due course.But one thing that puzzles me-how on earth can restoring the Bideford line be costed at £80m when the infrastructure is intact and no major engineering works need to be carried out? The projected cost of the Tavistock line is £18m to rebuild 6 miles of track.I believe the distance between Barnstaple and Bideford is 10 miles,so how would it cost more than four times as much to rebuild a line which is not even double the lengh of the Tavistock project? Beats me,you must pay well up in your neck of the woods!

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