Barnstaple Town Council has unanimously backed calls to reinstate the town’s rail link with Bideford. The council voted to support the Tarka Rail Association (TRA) and the Atlantic Coast – Exeter Railway project, ACE Rail. The project aims to give Bideford a boost by extending the Tarka Line to the growing town’s 30,000 people and improve the existing line to add a second, limited-stop, hourly service to link Bideford with Exeter Central in 60 minutes. The nine-mile railway from Barnstaple to Bideford closed to regular scheduled passenger services in October 1965.
ACE Rail’s lead member, Tim Steer, told councillors last week: ‘The ACE Rail campaign is not just to get Bideford back to the branch line, but is also to get a faster service to Exeter on the Tarka Line. At the moment, the line takes roughly 80 minutes to get to Exeter Central, but with the ACE Rail campaign, we can figure out a fast rail link that can get there from Bideford to Exeter in 60 minutes. Bideford is a large urban community, and it’s been left behind. The local transport network around here is congested with no realistic prospect of capacity and growth, but reliably quick and predictable journeys can be made by train.’
The project to develop the case for an extension and upgrade of the Tarka Line has received a £6,500 grant from Great Western Railway, as well as support and advice from independent national rail development campaign Railfuture, which has also contributed financially. This has enabled the TRA to engage an independent specialist advisor to produce an Initial Business Case for the Atlantic Coast – Exeter Railway. GWR Business Development Director Tom Pierpoint said: ‘We’ve seen with the reopening of the Dartmoor Line to Okehampton how a local community can benefit from having rail services restored. We’re pleased to provide this funding, which can help towards further exploring the idea of extending the Tarka Line to Bideford.’ The popular Tarka Trail between Barnstaple and Bideford would be left intact. (Steven Hills; DevonLive)