Further plans bring growth to Okehampton’s economy

Ivybridge Train Station

Posted on: 11 April 2012

Devon County Councillors today (Wednesday 11 April) backed further plans to boost employment and business growth in Okehampton, agreeing to submit a planning application for a new train station east of the town.

The new station would link the town’s ‘Opportunity Okehampton’ employment site with Exeter, and is close to the junction with the A30, so could serve a wider catchment area.

Members of the Council’s Cabinet also agreed to submit a revised planning application to broaden the scope of the employment site, to include non-food retail, distribution and a hotel, to permission previously granted for office and industrial land use and ancillary warehousing.

Funding for key infrastructure to open up the site would be drawn from the £1.636 million allocated by the Council for commercial developments across Devon between 2012 and 2016/17, and would then be recouped as individual development plots are sold..

The town has been the focus of a great deal of support to businesses and local people seeking employment since a number of high profile business closures over the last 18 months.

Initiatives through the Council-coordinated Okehampton Works Partnership have provided over 140 people with employment training so far, with over 100 people finding new employment.

The County Council bought the employment site land from the Regional Development Agency last year with a view to it stimulating employment growth in the town, and has since been investigating the benefits for improving access by way of passenger rail services.

Okehampton’s existing railway station is not in a convenient location for many of the town’s residents, but a new shared footpath and cycleway as part of the new railway station development would link the new employment site to the existing housing and employment areas, as well as to the new station.

Some £110,000 funding from Devon’s Local Transport Plan settlement funding would need to be allocated to the station, footpath/cycleway link and car park, to supplement  £250,000 which has already been committed from Devon County Council’s own resources.

The Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for Economic Development, Cllr Will Mumford, said:

“Developing an efficient business infrastructure is an essential building block to supporting the local economy.  Making sure that the available employment site, which will complement the town’s existing Business Centre, has every opportunity to attract a wide range of business opportunities, and having the transport infrastructure to support it is critical.

“While the County Council is able to fund a significant amount of the work, further funding is needed.  Establishing planning permission for a new small train station will improve our chances of success in attracting Government funding, and in improving passenger rail services to Okehampton, which is being re-tendered by the Department for Transport.

“There will also be a continuing need for travel between Okehampton and Exeter for work, education, retail and leisure purposes, and creating a sustainable low carbon rail alternative will accommodate growth in housing and employment without exacerbating highway congestion.”

Councillor Christine Marsh, local Member for Okehampton Rural, said:

“I am delighted. This is great news for Okehampton and, hopefully, is the next step in achieving an improved passenger rail service for the town that will boost tourism and employment opportunities for local people.”

25 comments on “Further plans bring growth to Okehampton’s economy

  1. Kim Allsebrook on said:

    Being a newcomer to the area and someone who relies on public transport, this all sounds great! Are there any updates? I took the train from Sampford Courtenay to Exeter Central today (08.09.13) and heard the line is up for sale at the moment.

    • Hi Kim. Whilst the line between Okehampton and Yeoford is privately owned, DCC continues to work with partners to improve the long term future of train services for Okehampton. The stalled Great Western Franchise process has been a factor that has effectively delayed progress, but the extended Franchise shortly to be announced by government is expected to include the possibility of a priced option for improved services. Thanks.

  2. J Vaughan on said:

    All very positive-sounding. One correspondent suggests the new link between Tavistock & Plymouth being on the old GW line. The infrastructure to enable this would be colossally expensive, given that large chunks are missing near Yelverton, and it is a good deal longer and in far worse condition than the proposed SR (former main line) route via Bere Alston Junction; also both granite-built, finely engineered viaducts in and near Tavistock on the ex-SR route are in excellent condition and will need little maintenance.

    Re CPOs for the small amount of land that has been built over in Tavistock, of course that could happen (slightly embarrassing for the District Coucil considering part of its office complex would have to be moved) and though it is not yet the priority of the project to continue the line on from the new proposed ‘Tavistock West’ to Okehampton, clearly this is a worthy and feasible long-term aim. Almost all the infrastructure (including the famous steel viaduct at Meldon) is still intact, only a small section near Sourton needing a fair amount of new engineering (though no buildings will need demolishing there). Even the stations at Bridestowe, Lydford and Brentor and Tavistock North are all still there, and it is to be hoped that the owners might be happy to see trains again running despite the line having to run right through their gardens.
    The current ‘Plan A’ of Devon CC is to have through trains run from Plymouth to Tavistock with a railway shuttle between Bere Alston Junction and Gunnislake (the branch line) which seems eminently sensible as it would mean extra trains could be run at peak times (maybe with a passing facility at Bere Alston or Bere Ferrers) and it would save on the running costs of the Gunnislake branch.
    The ‘extras’ I suggested to the DCC project officer for ‘Tavistock West’ were to have a visitor centre & cafe at the new station, and either a siding or retained extension of the track right up to the Callington Road to accommodate charter trains.
    Having weekend Steam Trains on the Gunnislake branch would seem very desirable and there is plenty of space at Bere Alston Junction to allow for the necessary facilities, but let’s get the new line open and running first.

  3. Of all the closed rail lines in the South West without a doubt the most missed is the former SR main line from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton & Tavistock (Meldon Quarry to Bere Alston closed, without major cost reductions, in May 1968)
    Not only is restoration of this alternative rail route to Plymouth & Cornwall needed for the likely increasing incidence of disruptions to services along the Starcross to Teignmouth section of the South Devon main line BUT for the several weekends and week nights each year that this route is closed for planned Infrastructure maintenance & renewals..with resultant major disruption & delay to passengers’ journeys necessitated by having to use buses between Tiverton Parkway/Exeter St D & Plymouth.

    Restoration of an Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton & Tavistock route (much better engineered than the severely graded and twisting South Devon line) would allow building of a new increasingly needed Parkway Rail/Road Interchange station at Sourton (where the A30 & A386 intersect) thus providing an attractive railhead for West Devon and North Cornwall.

    With the current restoration of the line from Edinburgh to Galashiels (35 miles of the former ‘Waverley’ main line closed in 1969) demolition of houses etc. shortsightedly built
    on the trackbed has not stopped this much needed project ..so demolition of similar houses (shortsightedly) built on the trackbed in the Tavistock North stn/Kelly College areas should not present an insurmountable problem.
    Had the Okehampton/Bere Alston line been in Scotland it is quite possible that it too would now be in the process of being re-opened!

  4. Thank you for taking to time to answer the questions raised in these comments.

    From your responses about the franchise bidding process can I take it that you expect trains to be running from the new station to Exeter by summer 2013 or have I misunderstood? Thank you.

  5. Mike Brady on said:

    Okehampton Exeter:
    I understand that there have been difficulties in “negotiating” a path across the main line at St. Davids in order to reach Central. Is this the “Constraint” that is referred to here?
    If so there could be good reason for remodelling the track layout at St. Davids to accommodate the traffic. After all, 50 years ago, it was capable of handling all the express and local passenger traffic traveling on a larger local network, as well as light locomotives and goods trains.
    To maximise traffic, the trains should serve as large an area in Exeter as possible. Shoppers from Okehampton and surrounds will certainly want to go direct to Central Station (otherwise it is better to go by bus); commuters might wish to get to Sowton I.E., and so the trains should run through as far as there; otherwise the more effective course is to cirumnavigate the city on the motorway and turn straight into Sowton I.E.

    The only real advantage in using public transport to get to Exeter outside the heavy rush-hour crowd period is to avoid the heavy car parking charges. I note the reply to someone’s previous post was very guarded on this. If you charge at the Okehmapton end for parking you will kill the whole thing stone dead.

    Tavistock Extension:
    Although there are currently no plans for reconnecting Okehampton with Plymouth for a relief route, a course should not be adopted now that is incompatible with such a project in the future. The old LSWR route runs through the Council Offices – ok, not the end of the world if these came down, but added expense nevertheless – and over two very large masonry viaducts that would constantly require maintenance up to mainline operating standards, another very considerable on-going expense.

    A renewed rail-link between Tavistock and Plymouth should be approximately along the course of the former Great Western single tracked line. AS a commuter service this would serve all the residential villages on the western side of Dartmoor and eastern side of the Tamar as well as Tavistock itself close to the centre, and an industrial estate on the east side of Plymouth. If the airport ever opened again it might also justify a spur to there. If the Okehampton link ever did come, the disadvantages I have outlined above would be avoided.

    • Devon Newscentre on said:

      Hi Mike,

      Any extension of the national rail network is a matter for Government. However we’re committed to pressing the Government to improve the rail network including better investment in current facilities and stock. Our plans for extending the network to Tavistock are an important step in ensuring that the future network is able to serve the future needs of the county. We would also wish to safeguard the current Okehampton line for the reasons stated. The need for improvements to current signalling and pathing constraints between Exeter and St David’s have also been raised with Network Rail.


  6. Chris Hannen on said:

    Since the recent events with the weather and landslides at Dawlish & Teignmouth, I think a rail link should be restored between Okehampton and Plymouth as a priority, so that it could serve those communities and the Southwest of England would still have a rail link to the rest of the Country in the event of problems on the current line. With all the floods and terrible weather which we seem to be getting more of, these problems could well increase.

  7. Hayley on said:

    Wonderful news!! I commute to Exeter daily, and would definitely do this by train should such a thing appear. Great to see some sensible investment going on…

  8. Joseph Eames on said:

    When is it likely that the train services from Exeter to Okehampton be running and is there any other news about prices as of yet?

    Thank you for your time.

    • Hi Joseph
      You may be aware that central government directly funds and manages the rail network through the franchise process, and that the Great Western Franchise is due to be re-let from summer 2013. After discussions with Dartmoor Railway, the current leaseholder of the Okehampton line, we asked the Department for Transport for the new franchise to include a priced option for a daily Okehampton service. Until the franchise process is complete and the new train operator has been identified – expected early 2013 it’s not possible to give you a specific answer. However what we can say is that there’s a clear need to serve both Exeter St David’s and Exeter Central stations, but there are constraints between St David’s and Cowley Bridge and Central station that might work against that. Details regarding how early or late the service might run will be decided by the franchise bidding process, although we’re aware there’s a need for later evening links between Okehampton and Exeter. We can’t yet give an indication of fares because this will be subject to the franchise bidding process.
      Thanks for you comment and watch this space

  9. Stephen Lawrence on said:

    A solution based on a Tram-train might solve the Exeter St Davids/Central access difficulty by diverting to another central location in Exeter after St Davids, with some street running. I don’t know Exeter at all, so I maybe talking “out of my hat” here, I admit..

  10. Graham Bowden on said:

    Any news of how the proposed reopening of the Bere Alston- Tavistock rail line is progressing.

    • Hello Graham
      As you may be aware, Devon County Council is developing plans for re-introducing the rail link between Bere Alston and Tavistock. It is hoped that the extension of the rail line will benefit Tavistock and the wider community in a number of ways including improved transport options and a new recreational link alongside the rail line for walkers and cyclists. As part of these works, a series of inspections/surveys commenced at the beginning of July 2012. These are the early stages of a long term project that Devon County Council anticipates will take a number of years to come to fruition. The surveys will help to define further the scope of the works associated with the railway and the timetable for delivering it. Formal consultation will start soon and we will endeavour to keep residents informed and how they can get involved.

  11. Neil Legg on said:

    What a fantastic project. Long overdue in my opinion. However, not reinstating the whole line is in my opinion short sighted. First of all it would guarantee rail connection to the southy west in the event of any problems on the Dawlish line. Secondly it would allow an increase of traffic both in and out of the west country, particularly freight, which is becoming increasingly expensive to move by road. Also it would allow the complete circumnavigation of Dartmoor National park, allowing easy access without the need for your car. Carrying out the whole project in one go would undoubtedly cost less in the long term than attempting to do it in chunks. Train travel is increasing at a national rate of around 9% per annum so there has never been a better time to drive this project forward and reopen a line that should never have closed.

  12. Graham Brown on said:

    The development of these sort of rail links is helpful if stations are in the right place, services run at times to suit potential users and fares are affordable compared with other forms of transport.

    What station in Exeter is/would be linked to Okehampton?
    How early and late would the suggested two-hourly service run?
    Is there any indication of fares between Okehampton and Exeter?
    Are car parking charges proposed at Okehampton stations?

    • Devon Newscentre on said:

      Thanks for your comment Graham. You may be aware that central government directly funds and manages the rail network through the franchise process, and that the Great Western Franchise is due to be re-let from summer 2013. After discussions with Dartmoor Railway, the current leaseholder of the Okehampton line, we asked the Department for Transport for the new franchise to include a priced option for a daily Okehampton service. Until the franchise process is complete and the new train operator has been identified – expected early 2013 – I’m afraid it’s not possible to give you specific answers to your question or to know what terms the train service could operate.

      However, we’ll do our best to answer your questions by saying: There’s a clear need to serve both Exeter St David’s and Exeter Central stations, but there are constraints between St David’s and Cowley Bridge and Central station that might work against that. Details regarding how early or late the service might run will be decided by the franchise bidding process, although we’re aware there’s a need for later evening links between Okehampton and Exeter. Any indication of fares? No not yet, because this will be subject to the franchise bidding process. And about car park charges at Okehampton – this is still open at the moment, although there’s an argument not to charge while the service is being established.

      Hope that helps.

  13. Alan on said:

    Nice to see a commitment to Rail infrastructure. Should help boost tourism to the area if it encourages more train services into Oakhampton.

  14. Very pleased to see any development of the railway network. There is huge potential for the people of Okehampton areas to switch from cars to trains for local travel around Devon or further afield.

  15. David Brown on said:

    Are the proposals available to see online anywhere?

    • Devon Newscentre on said:

      Thanks David. Our Cabinet has agreed to a proposal to submit a planning application for a new Okehampton East station, with pedestrian and footpath link joining the site with Hambledown Road, and the provision of an initial station car park. There is no planning application as yet, but when it is submitted to West Devon Borough Council (as the Planning authority), it will be published.

    • David Brown on said:

      Thank you for the swift response, Newscentre. Just a quick couple of other queries about the project. Firstly, the total cost of £360,000 seems remarkably cheap for such a project – the best comparison would be the new Cranbrook station which was recently reported to be costing around £4 million, for what presumably would be a similar setup with a single platform and new car park and access.
      Secondly, what would the council like to see in terms of the train service? Would the service serve both the old and new stations, would restoring the second platform at Yeoford be on the wishlist, and how frequent would the trains ideally be? I appreciate that these would be up to the Train Operating Company, but could the council have a say as part of the upcoming franchise renewal and consultation?

    • Devon Newscentre on said:

      The two projects – the Okehampton East and the Cranbrook station – are two very different projects. The proposal we’re talking about for Okehampton East would be for a short platform with a small temporary car park being built alongside a branch line railway that has no regular trains. Whereas the Cranbrook station will be a long (6 car) platform and 150 space car park, constructed alongside a main line railway with all the constraints and safety requirements that that imposes.

      In terms of the train service, we’d want trains to serve both Okehampton stations. The concept doesn’t include restoration of the second platform at Yeoford.

      In our response to the franchise consultation we suggested a 2 hourly frequency.

  16. Andy Thompson on said:

    This is good news for Okehampton but what will happen to the heritage station at at Okehampton and what is this to happen to any plan to reopen the whole line round to Plymouth via Tavistock?

    • Devon Newscentre on said:

      This is good news, yes. The intention is to retain the existing Okehampton station for train services to Okehampton, working with Dartmoor Railway, the current leaseholder.

      Train services from Exeter would continue to serve the existing station, as well as the proposed Okehampton East station.

      We are also working closely with potential developers of new housing in Tavistock with a view to re-opening the line between Bere Alston and Tavistock. That would enable regular train services between Plymouth and Tavistock. However, we don’t currently have active plans to reopen between Okehampton and Tavistock, though much of the former railway trackbed is protected as it forms part of the national cycle network.

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