15 January 2022

Trains to Tavistock?

The much-wanted reopening of the Tavistock to Plymouth rail link has moved up the list of priorities for rail projects.

There has been a long-held ambition for the re-opening the link between Tavistock and Plymouth is to encourage people to use rail services, and the reinstatement of the rail line to Tavistock is identified in the 20-year plan of the Peninsula Rail Task Force.

Before Christmas, Damien Jones, the county’s head of transport coordination, had told West Devon councillors that the restoration of the Tavistock-Bere Alston link had moved up in the list of Department for Transport projects.

Preparatory work has been carried out by Network Rail on signalling at Bere Alston, where the line currently terminates, in advance of the possible return to trains to Tavistock.

It follows the successful reopening of the Okehampton branch last month, and with Devon County Council getting £50,000 towards the next stage of works towards the rebuilding the line between Tavistock and Bere Alston in Devon, connecting Tavistock and Plymouth by rail, work on that business case has begun.

The former Tavistock North station opened in June 1890, but closed on May 6, 1968, as part of the Beeching Axe.

However, the track bed south of Tavistock is almost intact to Bere Alston, where it joins the present-day Tamar Valley Line, with an engineering assessment in 2009 showing that the rail-bed, bridges and tunnels between Bere Alston and Tavistock were in sound condition.

But with the success of the Okehampton railway line reopening, Devon has shown that it can deliver on rail projects, and Government officials have woken up to the fact that bringing the railway back to Tavistock would connect the West Devon market town with Plymouth.

At a recent West Devon meeting, Mr Jones told councillors that while there were hundreds of projects on the shortlist, the reopening of the Tavistock line had been moving up the list as plenty of work had already been done.

“If we can get a business case, we know a number of officers are keen on this project and we could draw down more development funding to get the scheme moving forward,” he added.

The project is being sold as linking Tavistock to Plymouth, rather than Bere Alston were the actual link and line extension would be from, because Plymouth is more well-known than Bere Alston.

The plan would be to run an increased service into Plymouth via St Budeaux and Devonport Dockyard, with signalling ‘solutions’ meaning the line could cope with the increased rail traffic without interfering with the branch line services to Gunnislake.

At Devon County Council’s cabinet meeting on Wednesday, councillors backed a motion calling for more support for the revival of the railways across the whole county, which included the development of the North of Dartmoor line, connecting Plymouth, via Okehampton and Tavistock.

Dave Black, head of planning, transportation and environment, in his report to the cabinet, said: “The Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund monies secured by the County Council for Tavistock to Plymouth rail line is an important milestone as it means it is now formally recognised by Government as a pipeline rail industry scheme. We have seen with Cullompton Railway Station that the Ideas Fund led to it gaining Strategic Outline Business Case approval and unlocking future development funding.

“We are prioritising this work as the next phase of the northern route railway and hope to build on the momentum gained from the successful Dartmoor Line reopening. This was a hugely successful project showcasing what can be achieved when local authorities, the rail industry and the local community work closely together. The Tavistock to Plymouth Rail business case work involving partners will start in January 2022.

“Decarbonisation of transport and tackling climate change is now a much higher priority for local authorities. While rail is already a low carbon mode of transport, the South West has ageing diesel train fleets and so low carbon traction options, including the transfer of more road freight to rail, are key aspirations for the Peninsula region.”


Will it happen?  I certainly hope so but do worry that the cash just wont be there when its really needed…

Bere Alston 16/08/17

© Foulger Railway Photography [cc] August 2017

A blast from the past:

Bere Alston. 41317 with the Callington branch train. 11.9.58

© Roger Joanes [cc] Bere Alston.


  1. £50k is a pittance on today's railway, and for today's councils too. It'll barely pay for some consultants to have a garden party, sorry, a work meeting to discuss the work that's already been done.
    Until you see millions being committed to the project, it'll never be anything more than talk.

  2. There could be an hourly Plymouth-Tavistock service crossing at Bere Alston, and a shuttle service to Gunnislake possibly operated by a Parry's Peoplemover.

  3. It would make more sense to compulsory purchase Tavistock North (the old station) and return that to passenger use. Making a new station in the long run would be just as expensive and if the line was extended to Okehampton it will need to pass by the old station anyway (right through their now back garden). If it was planned right a GWR 4 car service could leave Plymouth to Bere Alston and then divide 2 cars to Gunnislake and 2 to Tavistock.

  4. The campaign to join up the Tavistock line with the Okehampton line to re-create the old Southern main line to Plymouth has better prospects than two dead end branches. But it won't be simple, despite the clear advantages of the line linking across Dartmoor and providing a diversionary route when the Dawlish line is closed. The Join Up campaign has an interesting website at https://join-up.uk .

  5. Take a look at the https://join-up.uk website for details of the more strategic plan to link the Tavistock and Okehampton lines together to re-create a second main line to Plymouth.


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