Rail enthusiasts unveil their vision for a light railway link following the Tarka Trail

Plans have been revealed to reopen the railway line between Barnstaple and Braunton.

The long term proposals from the Combe Rail charity for a ‘North Devon Metro’ are part of its wider ambitions to eventually open the entire line to Ilfracombe.

It is proposing a modern, light railway that would use battery operated electric vehicles like trams, capable of running on road or on modified sections of the Tarka Trail – which follows the route of the old railway that closed 46 years ago.

Combe Rail has drawn up blueprints for the community and commuter railway that would see a rail link from The Strand in Barnstaple to Caen Street in Braunton completed by 2030.

Another three phases would eventually see the line extended to Ilfracombe.

The charity is keen to get support from local people and to get the project established as part of North Devon Council’s (NDC) planning strategy.

Richard Heacock of Combe Rail said it could unlock economic growth and was needed for two pressing reasons – Braunton traffic and Barnstaple parking.

“The A361 through Braunton is at capacity and Braunton’s rush-hour air pollution is a source of serious concern. Barnstaple, meanwhile urgently needs an effective park-and-ride solution,” he said.

“It’s now accepted new and re-opened railways can unlock economic growth. The success of the Borders Railway in Scotland is a spectacular example of this. North Devon needs this sort of forward-looking infrastructure investment.”

The proposals suggest there is ample space to share the Tarka Trail with a ‘tramway’ and the electronic vehicles are eco-frinedly and quiet.

Fellow Combe Rail trustee, district councillor David Luggar, wants to get the support of local people and the backing of NDC and Devon County councils.

“It has NDC support in principle but it’s fair to say it is very early days,” he said.

“There’s a lot of consultation that needs to be done with local people, parish councils and the county to determine a way forward if possible.”

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