Tarka Line to close for �9.3m track renewal work

Major track replacement project will make for smoother rides and quicker journeys, say Network Rail.

MAJOR track improvement works – the biggest investment in 100 years – will begin on the Tarka railway line on Saturday.

A �9.3million renewal programme by Network Rail will replace nine miles of track, just under a quarter of the line’s 39 miles between Barnstaple to Exeter line.

The company plans to replace parts of the 55-year-old track, making for smoother train rides and paving the way for faster journey times.

Network Rail’s western route managing director, Patrick Hallgate, said: “This is the biggest spend on the Tarka Line in more than 100 years and is certainly the largest single investment in the line since approximately �4.6m was spent on re-modelling the junction and replacing the bridges at Cowley Bridge, Exeter in 1965.”

The line will be closed for two weeks until Monday, December 3 to enable replacement of the track at Lapford and also between Eggesford and Portsmouth Arms.

Further track renewal improvements are planned between Crediton and Yeoford and in the Umberleigh and Chapelton areas next March.

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The railway will remain open for trains as far as Crediton, with replacement buses being provided between Crediton and stations to Barnstaple.

Julian Crow, First Great Western regional manager, said: “The Tarka Line is thriving with more passengers than ever and we very much welcome this huge investment in the line’s future, leading to smoother and faster journeys for our customers.

“Since the beginning of the franchise in 2006 First Great Western, working with Devon County Council, has provided an additional nine services a week to the line.

“We’ll do our best to make journeys as easy as possible while the work is carried out and look forward to the improvements when it is completed.”

John Burch, chairman of the Tarka Rail Association, said “We are delighted that this work is going ahead on the Tarka Line at long last. We have been involved in discussions about these plans for a very long time.

“We have worked hard to raise the profile of the Tarka Line and attract investment to improve the service offered.

“Our ultimate aim is to see faster services on the line and an increase in line capacity to cope with the huge increase in the number of people using the Tarka Line in recent years.

“We realise that suspension of the train service over parts of the line is a huge inconvenience to customers, but this is the best and quickest way to undertake this extensive work.

“We are also working with First Great Western to ensure that suitable replacement road services are operated during the works and believe that short term pain will bring significant long term gain.

“This investment demonstrates a confidence in secondary routes as part of the essential future public transport network and we know it is the only way to get people out of their cars in the medium to long term.”

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