Call to rebuild Barnstaple to Bideford railway
TORRIDGE District Council has been called on to support the idea of bringing back the Bideford to Barnstaple rail link. The passenger link was lost in the 1960s under the Beeching axe and the route has since become part of the popular Tarka Trail cycleway
TORRIDGE District Council has been called on to support the idea of bringing back the Bideford to Barnstaple rail link.
The passenger link was lost in the 1960s under the Beeching axe and the route has since become part of the popular Tarka Trail cycleway and footpath.
But Torridge councillor Miranda Cox believes there are now great benefits to be had from restoring the railway and that it could be operated alongside the Tarka Trail.
Her call for the council's support has been passed on for consideration by its Policy Performance and Resources and Community Development Committees.
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Mrs Cox told the Gazette: "I would like to see the railway restored, but it must be alongside the Tarka Trail, because it is important to keep the cycleway and footpath. Ten years ago The Maunsell Report commissioned by Devon County Council looked into the feasibility of such a scheme and came to the conclusion that although there would be a couple of pinch points along the route, it could be done. And when the Barnstaple Western Bypass and Bridge was built, provision was made to allow the future possibility of this.
"The engineering is always there to build new roads, so why not a railway? It would be great for tourism, ease congestion and reduce emissions. People love railways and this is a beautiful route. You can build 15 miles of railway for the cost of one mile of motorway. There was a survey by the association of train operators recently and the route remains on their list, though not very high up. It was estimated that it would cost around �80 million. This compares with the �40 million for the new bridge in Barnstaple.
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"I just want from the council a message of support and to, perhaps, discuss this with railway operators and with North Devon District Council, with whom we are already having more joint working, as a lot of the route is in their area."
When planning the Barnstaple Western Bypass, a study was conducted by consultants which examined the case for rail re-opening and concluded it was not financially viable and that the railway would not carry significant traffic, for the forseeable future.
However, in order to preserve the possibility for the long term, the design of the bypass set the road at such a level that a railway could be placed under the road at some time in the future.
Earlier this year, the potential for re-opening the line to Bideford was independently assessed again by the Association of Train Operating Companies under its Connecting Communities initiative.
This looked at opportunities to connect communities which have grown in recent years, but do not have good access to the rail network. It focused on schemes which could be delivered quickly through short links to existing lines and by making use of freight lines and railway land left by the line closures of the 60s and 70s.
It costed a possible re-opening to Bideford at �80 million and placed it 30th on a list of 35 possible schemes ranked on value for money.