County derails plan to reopen Barnstaple to Bideford railway
DEVON County Council has dealt a blow to hopes of re-opening the Barnstaple to Bideford railway line.
Ian Harrison, the council's deputy executive director of environment, economy and culture, said the council did not believe there was a case for reinstating the railway.
Torridge District Council had, in principle, supported the re-opening the 15-mile line, which could cost around £80 million and wrote to the county council asking for support.
Responding by letter to the district council Mr Harrison said the costs of re-opening the line "would outweigh the benefit."
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He said the Association of Train Operating Companies had also concluded the line was not viable. He added that the county council was keen to support rail travel and had been actively engaged in enhancing services on the Barnstaple branch.
"Although the county council does not believe there is a case for reinstating the railway to Bideford it is very keen to see interchange between bus and rail services at Barnstaple Station," he wrote.
"Finally, the county council would not wish to undermine in any sense the tremendous benefit provided by the Tarka Trail cycle and pedestrian route."
He pointed out patronage of trains had increased by 80% over the past eight years and two additional trains from Barnstaple to Exeter from December 2008 had been running.
Cllr Sam Robinson said he regretted the letter's negative tone. And Bideford Railway Heritage Centre spokesman, Lewis Andrews believed the line would be easy to open as it was still in the ownership of one body and had not been developed.
He disputed Mr Harrison's interpretation of reports and did not believe the scheme has been ruled out on viability.
He said: "The ATOC identified the Bideford line as a route for reopening and it was not true that is was identified as unviable. If this were the case, it would not have been included and costed at £80m." He believed the line would cater for both locals and tourists.
He said support to open the former line had grown since the James May's Toy Stories when the presenter unsuccessfully attempted to construct the world's longest model railway between Barnstaple and Bideford.