Barnstaple to Exeter Tarka Line reopens but more closures are imminent
TRAIN services between Barnstaple and Exeter St David’s have resumed following a lengthy line closure but there is more disruption on the way.
Services on the Tarka Line have been hampered by engineering works and severe flooding over the past six weeks.
The line was initially closed between Barnstaple and Crediton for a two-week period from November 26 while planned engineering works were carried out to renew the track.
However, due to heavy rain and poor weather conditions during this period, engineers were unable to complete the works.
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Network Rail was then forced to keep the Tarka Line closed throughout December and into early January after flooding hit several sections of the track.
The line closure brought misery to many passengers who were hoping to get away over the festive period.
Susan Young, 75, from Combe Martin, is retired and was planning to visit friends in Wycombe for Christmas. She was forced to change her plans at the last minute after flooding cancelled all services on the Tarka Line and affected rail replacement buses on December 22.
She said: “I understand the flooding was unprecedented but the defences in place clearly weren’t up to the job.
“It was disappointing. I couldn’t see my friends as planned. In the end friends here in the village took pity on me and I joined them for Christmas.
“Clearly such defences are not adequate to deal with this extreme weather and if we are supposed to be getting more of it, as the forecasters keep telling us, then the powers to be need to look at what they can do so this doesn’t happen more often.
“This caused major disruption to anyone who was trying to use the Tarka line, and that’s an awful lot of us these days.”
Last week, the line reopened between Exeter St David’s and Crediton after engineering work was carried out at Cowley Bridge to clear the severe flooding brought on by December’s heavy rainfall.
However, the line between Crediton and Barnstaple remained closed while specialist divers inspected a number of bridges on the line.
The last two bridges to be inspected, the Umberleigh River Viaduct and the Black Viaduct at Great Fisherton Farm, were checked over the weekend and deemed safe.
Chris Denham, of Network Rail, said: “We do apologise for any disruption that people have endured on the Tarka Line. It has been the wettest year on record. Safety is our first priority and until we can ensure the track and bridges are safe, we will not let firms run trains on the line.”
The unfinished track renewal work will now be carried out in March, sparking further disruption for Tarka Line passengers.
Planned engineering work was already scheduled for approximately seven days in March, although the unfinished work from November will now be “folded in”, meaning the work will last for one month.
The work, which will be carried out in the Umberleigh and Crediton areas, will see large sections of the track replaced in an attempt to provide a “smoother, quieter railway”.
Mr Denham said: “We will be relaying the track which includes a new track, new sleepers and new ballasts which provide a stable and well-drained platform for it to sit on.
“While we will try not to affect passengers, there are some times we have to, to get the work done. A lot will be done overnight but there may be some days where there is an amended service.”
Disruption is expected throughout the month, especially at weekends.