Devon & Cornwall railways – Beeching fund latest

Eric Partridge

Bude community groups bid for Government funds to
investigate restoring the rail line from Bude to Okehampton

An artist’s impression of what the future could hold – a modern train is superimposed on a retro image of old Bude station

Three Bude community groups have united to seek Government funding to support the reintroduction of a railway line between Bude and Okehampton via Holsworthy. Connect Bude, Bude Climate Partnership and Bude Coastal Community Team are collaborating in an application to the Department for Transport’s Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund, which offers up to £50,000 towards the costs of building a credible case for restoring rail lines that were axed in the Beeching cuts or otherwise.

If successful, the three Bude community groups will need to find up to £16,666 to match the Government’s £50,000 grant. The combined funds will pay for studies to investigate the engineering, transport, environmental, climate change and socio-economic factors involved in reopening a line that closed in October 1966.

Connect Bude chairman Richard Wolfenden-Brown said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to secure the level of funding needed to properly investigate and cost the reinstatement of a rail line from Okehampton to Holsworthy and ultimately to Bude.”

Established in 2016, volunteer-led Connect Bude has campaigned to reinstate a rail line to one of the most poorly served areas of the country. It has also worked closely with OkeRail in its campaign to return train services between Okehampton and Exeter.

Robert Uhlig, chair of Bude Climate Partnership, said: “Reopening a railway line to Bude is one of several schemes Bude Climate Partnership is investigating in order to bring all the advantages of more sustainable transport options to our area. Transport is the largest contributor to our community’s carbon footprint and switching from road to railway would certainly reduce it.”

Connect Bude is one of seven partners in Bude Climate Partnership, which was founded in 2020 after receiving a grant from The National Lottery Community Fund’s Carbon Action Fund to investigate, test and develop positive ways to protect the Bude area and community against the impact of climate change.

Robert Uhlig added: “As well as conducting a Transport Study of the wider Bude area, we’re working with local tourism providers to find ways of making Bude a leading sustainable tourism destination. Providing a rail link could significantly reduce the impact of tourism on our carbon footprint and bring a host of other benefits.”

Applications to the Ideas Fund must carry the sponsorship of Members of Parliament with constituencies through which a restored rail line would pass. Connect Bude is seeking the support of North Cornwall’s Scott Mann, Torridge and West Devon’s Geoffrey Cox and Central Devon’s Mel Stride.

Deputy Mayor of Okehampton Dr Michael Ireland, who is Chairman of OkeRail and a Connect Bude member, welcomed the news: “I’m pleased to see that Connect Bude is seizing this opportunity to secure some significant funding to investigate the return of rail services to North Devon and North Cornwall. It’s a highly competitive process but certainly worth making a bid.”

The 10,000-word application must be submitted to the Department for Transport by 5th March. Successful applicants are likely to be informed by late Spring.

Tavistock to Bere Alston proposal hits the buffers

Bere Alston station hosts around nine trains a day to Plymouth Credit: Rosser1954 via Wikimedia Commons

Devon County Council has received information from the Department for Transport (DfT) that it had not satisfied their requirements to be considered under the accelerated proposals part of the ‘Restoring Your Railway fund’ for the reopening of Tavistock to Bere Alston.

The line would provide a new, sustainable link between Tavistock and Plymouth for commuter journeys, help to minimise traffic on the A386, link Tavistock to the national rail network and also provide an alternative travel option for leisure, education and retail journeys.

The DfT recognised that much of the work had been progressed with the
scheme and instead recommended that an application be submitted in March to the third round of the Ideas Fund (also part of the Restoring your Railway fund), which would potentially deliver some development funding to enable further work to support progress with the scheme.

The County Council will be seeking further clarification from the DfT on the areas for development and is in the process of preparing a bid submission for the 5th March deadline.

Okehampton to Exeter line – updates are imminent

It has been almost three months since the Government’s National Infrastructure Strategy announced that the Okehampton to Exeter rail link is to be reinstated later this year.

The Moorlander understands that Dartmoor Railway Supporters’ Association have been working closely in the background with Network Rail and their contractors and that updates from the respective agencies are imminent.

Dr Michael Ireland, chair of campaign group OkeRail said: “OkeRail welcomed the statement from the Government last year to reopen the railway line from Exeter to Okehampton. We look forward to further announcements on progress to reinstate the passenger rail service. The railway will be an important stimulus to the economy of Okehampton, West Devon And North Cornwall.”

Further support for a new station to be built at Parkway, adjacent to Exeter Road Industrial Estate, has been gathering pace locally too with suggestions that a distribution centre for one or more of the major supermarket chains could help subsidise the costs of construction.

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