Improving the Connectivity of the South West

Discussion in 'Infrastructure & Stations' started by samhurst612, 22 Nov 2013.

The Next Step to improving South West Connectivity

Poll closed 27 Nov 2013.
  1. Sort out Dawlish (Okehampton/Haldon Hill diversion, New coastal defense design)

    16 vote(s)
    32.7%
  2. Speed up (Doubling, Electrification and update viaducts)

    24 vote(s)
    49.0%
  3. Sort out Cowley Bridge

    5 vote(s)
    10.2%
  4. Open a new commuter line (Tavistock etc..)

    14 vote(s)
    28.6%
Multiple votes are allowed.
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  1. samhurst612

    samhurst612 Member

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    Hi, I am a fourth year Southampton Civil Engineering Masters student writing a project on improving the Railway Connectivity of the South West.

    We have spent the last 2 months researching and have come up with three main themes. Firstly, to open a new line (Tavistock & Launceston) or (Bodmin - Wadebridge). Our second theme is to improve reliability which involves a redesign of Cowley Bridge junction (Hydraulic modelling and new infrastructure) and the Dawlish sea wall area (Coastal defense design, Okehampton opening or Dawlish Diversion line). The third option is speeding up the line and increasing capacity by encouraging electrification & double lines or redesigning Saltash Bridge & several viaducts past Plymouth.

    We need to select a project that will increase the Economic situation in the South and I believe that increasing reliability to current and future extreme weather is the most important step forward for the south West. We therefore would like to progress with the Dawlish re-vamp or Dawlish diversion and Cowley bridge options.

    As enthusiasts, what are you're feelings and thoughts? Is reliability the best and first step to improving connectivity in the South West possibly bringing Plymouth London into the sub 3-hour category? Is more lines and doubling/electrification more important?

    Thank you for you're time..
     
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  3. The Planner

    The Planner Established Member

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    What are you expecting to do at Cowley Bridge?
     
  4. samhurst612

    samhurst612 Member

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    1 – Do Nothing:
    Carry out no improvements, the track only floods in high rainfall at the moment, it is uneconomical to propose flood prevention in this area.

    2 – Improve the Yeovil Line:
    The Yeovil line provides another access route to London, however it is mostly single track and is also at risk from flooding in the situations where Cowley floods. Improve the line (possible double track) and install flood prevention at areas most at risk.

    3 – Improve Culvert:
    Increase the capacity of the culvert that runs underneath the junction so as to allow more flow from the Culm to the Exe, this will alleviate the build up behind the track and so reduce/eliminating flooding.

    4 – Improve Recovery Time:
    Cowley Bridge cannot expect to be kept safe in extreme conditions, the track should be allowed to flood however emphasis should be placed on quick recovery times, have spare ballast and other necessary materials located nearby for quick works to be carried out once flooding has subsided.

    5 – Install reservoirs/water detention facilities along the River Culm:
    The Culm at this point does not have any water retention facilities, if these were constructed they would have the potential to control the flow downstream in an attempt to reduce flooding.

    6 – Engineer the rivers:
    If you are feeling particularly like messing with nature, it could be proposed to alter the route of the Culm to offer more points where the flow can cross to the other side of the track, allowing the flood water to be divided between several points to relieve pressure on Cowley Bridge Junction Itself.
     
  5. YorkshireBear

    YorkshireBear Established Member

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    An interesting choice of project, as a fourth year civil engineering student it looks quite interesting.
    The opinions on here may not form too much referencable material for you but we may be able to guide you a little.

    I too am interested in what the hell you would do with Cowley Junction? Do you have any guideline prices for these projects as that will help you with value for money.

    Having looked at your options i think recovery time is the best bet. I don't think improving it should be high up the list to improve connectivity.

    Most important for me? Electrification and some line speed improvements.
     
    Last edited: 22 Nov 2013
  6. The Planner

    The Planner Established Member

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    That is fixing a sporadic problem, it isn't improving connectivity.
     
  7. Moonshot

    Moonshot Established Member

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    I was just about to post something similar myself
     
  8. samhurst612

    samhurst612 Member

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    I think the South West (West of Exeter in this case) is centered around Plymouth and that the 'Big Boys' in London sea it as a seaside resort despite its potential as an Industrial centre.

    My view is that the current 3:07 Plymouth to London is an acceptable competition time. The constant track closures due to Cowley and Dawlish however make Plymouth a risky commute and I believe hold it back.

    You're suggestions to improve recovery time seem to be the only acceptable CBA (Cost Benefit) solutions as speeding up rivers may just cause exeter flooding. To improve recovery time, the Enviro Agency have suggested flood gates (that they control) however I think that the water balloons (stored there now) did an adequate job in the last storm.

    Possibly the best way to go would be a combination of better flood balloon usage and a change of ballast to solid concrete??
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Prices can range from a simple ballast change to a full blown drainage basin scheme. We are looking into getting some figures from Network rail.

    Electrification is a viable and interesting option assuming that the Dawlish Sea Wall does not prevent this?
     
  9. The Planner

    The Planner Established Member

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    I'm struggling with the Cowley Bridge issue, yes some mitigation is required but the for the amount of times it happens you will struggle to get a scheme to realise a decent BCR.
     
  10. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Member

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    One thing to point out about Dawlish, given that everyone is concerned about coastal erosion, is when was the last time the line was actually closed due to the sea? The past few times have been due to landslips from the cliffs beside the track. Would a one-off investment in avalanche shelters be worthwhile, or would the visual cost of such structures be more damaging than anything else?

    With Cowley Bridge, would it be better in the long run to spend any money available on improving flood resilience there, or to redouble the Exeter-Yeovil line that provides a reliable diversion route, and a chance of more permanent services to serve the huge developments east of Exeter? Of course, with the latter, you'd then still have the Barnstaple branch cut off if the line needed to be closed.

    On opening new lines (and more generally infrastructure investment), which one of re-opening old lines or improving existing lines would give the biggest economic benefit? The improvements to the Falmouth branch at Penryn would be a good case study for the latter, and I suspect that there'll be estimated facts and figures on the Tavistock proposals for the former. You should also look at how the railway would compete with other modes of transport. Wadebridge and Padstow may benefit nicely and see good usage with their poor road links, whereas Bideford was costed several years ago at £80m, but already has fairly good links with the A39/A361 link road and buses every 10 minutes to Barnstaple.

    I've deliberately left fairly open ended points so you can try and match up what your research shows you compared to other options and see what is best.

    Personally, I would say improving existing lines would be the better use of any money available - both in terms of resilience and quicker/more frequent services. Sadly, you don't seem to have provided this as an option in the poll.

    I don't think you would see a huge economic return reopening lines to places like Launceston or Wadebridge bearing in mind the hundereds of millions those projects would cost. Whereas spending that money instead on a Dawlish relief line, or even just vastly improving the existing line, would benefit Newton Abbot, Torbay and Plymouth - three very significant population areas that, with better services, would provide substantial amounts of long-distance travellers and daily commuters. Or there's a hundered and one other places on the network in the south-west that could do with some money - there is a huge demand for rail travel in this part of the world at the moment, and deciding which lines and which projects deserve priority is not an easy thing.
     
    Last edited: 22 Nov 2013
  11. YorkshireBear

    YorkshireBear Established Member

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    Overall you have a very interesting project which i think will do just fine in generating mayn responses on this thread.

    I see no problem with electrification of Dawlish, there is a line in Scotland on the sea front that gets battered. May require different materials to reduce corrosion but outside that it is fine.
     
  12. HowardGWR

    HowardGWR Established Member

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    I assumed in my vote that what you term a 'new commuter line (Tavistock etc)' meant reinstating the SR via Okehampton. Otherwise i would not have voted for it. You did say that 'connectivity' was the goal, not just reacting to weather events.
     
  13. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    But why spend money on a diversionary route that in reality is rarely needed and provides no extra connectivity benefits. If diverting past Dawlish is necessary, far better to go via Tavistock annd include connectivity benefits.

    Similarly, why spend money duplicating a mainline which works well 99%of the time, when you could use the same money to improve links to somewhefe like Wadebridge all year round ?
     
  14. YorkshireBear

    YorkshireBear Established Member

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    I agree, it is just does not justify the expense, i think new places need to be added and the existing links improved (both in frequency and speed).
     
  15. HowardGWR

    HowardGWR Established Member

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    I agree although I think the main benefit is to provide a second route to Plymouth, so that's why I voted for the 'commuter line' which I found somewhat a misnomer. Whether the extensions to Cornwall stack up, I am not so sure about. It's the same everywhere, had that line not been closed it certainly would not be now.

    Just think, Devon CC supports the Plymouth to Tavistock commuter service reopening. It also supports the Okehampton to Exeter commuter service reopening. So it's just the bit in between skirting Dartmoor and requiring a few houses next to the Tavistock viaduct to be demolished. Not nice, but with all the new housing being built in Tavistock, I am sure the present occupants could be made a very generous offer.
     
  16. Bevan Price

    Bevan Price Established Member

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    1. Cowley Bridge Junction is a key junction. If it gets blocked, that is a major restriction on rail access to the south west. But how often does it get blocked by floods - and would it be worth spending vast amounts of money to totally prevent a rare event. Does the flooding affect other property in the area ? Who should pay - Network Rail, or the Council ? A difficult decision for someone.

    2. In my opinion, the only worthwhile line to reopen in that area would be to restore an alternative route between Exeter & Plymouth - namely to fully reinstate the old SR route via Okehampton & Tavistock.

    3. Sadly, I think Launceston (population 7600) is too small to support a rail service, especially lying at the end of what would be a branch line passing through mainly miles with a pretty low population.
    Equally, Bodmin, Wadebridge (& Padstow) are unlikely to be large enough to support a viable "commuter" type rail service. But should the council consider some kind of support for the Bodmin & Wenford tourist railway to extend its line to Wadebridge or Padstow, to try and increase tourist visits to that part of Cornwall ? At present, with the council cutting support for rural bus services, I don't see that happening in the foreseeable future.
     
  17. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

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    The SR route is too slow.
    Need a high speed (125mph and up) alignment from Plymouth to Exeter
     
  18. Rapidash

    Rapidash Member

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    From a purely commuter point of view, cause I'm a selfish bugger, a high capacity, fast service to EXC from Torbay would be do wonders. The tedium of having to climb that bloody hill every day because the DFT put the kibosh on SWT past Exeter continues to annoy.

    an alternative Plymouth - Exeter line would be great, if only so that the Torbay route gets quicker.

    I know I'm probably seen as selfish for banging on about it, but the fact remains that Torbay has a larger population that Exeter, but never seems to get much of a focus for extra capacity or improvement. I'm hoping the new shuttle service starting soon will help somewhat!
     
  19. samhurst612

    samhurst612 Member

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    Thank you very much for you're responses so far. There seems to be a wealth of opinions and knowledge on this subject. My thoughts so far after reading all of you're comments:

    In terms of the Dawlish sea wall, I think it is going to be a problem justifying an avoidance proposal within the next 15-20 years due to the unpredictable sea level statistics. If a high speed route was provided elsewhere however, the benefits of the Dawlish route (Connecting Plymouth and Cornwall) that are present now would disappear and remaining benefits will be drowned by the costs of maintenance. Possibly forcing it to close.

    In this case, a tunneling route (Proposed before the war) around Dawlish will be required. This is mainly because the South Devon populations far outweigh the Okehampton and Tavistock populations, but also because the Okehampton-Tavistock route will struggle to beat current times. As I said above however, the insufficient sea level rise proof to date will probably not allow for a super avoidance plan and a series of 'quick wins' may be more appropriate.

    Quick wins for increasing speed/capacity include electrification (unlikely), new rolling stock, better signalling and straightening of routes (Gradually cutting corners as with large A Roads).

    Quick Wins for increasing robustness include revising Dawlsih maintenance schemes from both coastal erosion and landslips and introducing new passing loops between Exeter and Salisbury which could eliminate or reduce disruption caused by Cowley. A new Cowley junction flood planning and post-flood method would still need to be produced for Trains heading North and those for Barnstaple.

    Tavistock seems to be the only worthwhile commuter line looking at demographics in the South West. I will discuss this with my group next week and begin a CBA.
     
  20. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

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    The maintenance of large parts of the railway line via Dawlish would have to continue even if the route were to close as it appears to form a significant part of the local sea defence system.

    So the marginal cost of keeping the line open is probably far lower than it first appears.
     
  21. samhurst612

    samhurst612 Member

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    I agree that in the short term, this line could provide a nice diversion around the Dawlish sea wall when it is blocked however for a long term solution, that would leave Totnes, Newton Abbot, Torquay etc... blocked off. What do you think about the tunnel plan that was due to go ahead (full plans and surveying took place) before Hitler decided to invade everywhere??
     
  22. The Ham

    The Ham Established Member

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    I would suggest that the thing that would improve things the most would be improving the frequency of services over what there is at present. IIRC there's basicly an hourly service to Plymouth with 9 of those services then running on into Cornwall, If this was increased to a hourly service into Cornwall with then an additional service ever two hours only running to Plymouth then this would improve things quite a bit.

    I would go further an suggest that it would be possible to use portion working on the services to Cornwall, possibly with half the services running London Penzance/Newquay and half the services running Penzance/Paigton. If this were to work well then with an increase in services into Cornwall there could be other brach lines which would benefit (i.e. London to Penzance/Falmouth). Although the number of seats per service west of the split would reduce (per service) the increase in services would be able to provide an adiqaute number of seats where they were required (as the number of people on services west of Exeter, Plymouth or ever Truro do not always need a full length train to cope with the number of passengers and this would be even more the case with an increase of services).

    In addition look at extending some of the branch line services so that they link up (i.e. Newqay to Falmouth) and providing more local services so that a few of the exress trains can miss a few of the more minor stations out and/or new stations could be provided if there was need.

    As time goes by there could a number of minor changes made to Cowley Bridge (such as an additional culvert, moving any critical sinalling/control equipment out of the flood zone, raising the height of the junction if possible, etc.

    Slightly longer term connect the line between Tavistock and Oackhampton should be resored providing a possible alternitive route for services from Plymouth, but mostly to provide local services. This could be in partnership with improvements to the line to London via Salisbury to provide a regular (proberbly once every two hours) service through from Plymouth to London via Tavistoke and Salisbury.

    Even longer term speed increases and electrification would be good. However, given the likelihood that the express services are going to be run by bi-modal IEP for some time to come, I would suggest that any improments are lead by local services and XC services, at least in the short to medium term.
     
  23. The Planner

    The Planner Established Member

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    It isn't so much straightening routes, it is leveling them out, there are some substantial banks along the route.
     
  24. HowardGWR

    HowardGWR Established Member

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    Neither are capable of being 'quick wins'.

    Our correspondent does not seem to have taken into account that, under current plans, the SR route is going to be almost completed anyway. Not only that, but it is capable or substantial speed improvements, especially along the northern edge of Dartmoor, where it is as straight as a die.
     
  25. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Member

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    But you don't seem to be taking into account that, by having that as your mainline diversion, you're completely cutting off Newton Abbot, Torbay and Totnes. As a collection of places, I'd argue that they're possibly more important to the economy of the south west than Plymouth.
     
  26. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

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    Presumably Plymouth terminators would continue to sue the existing route and only Penzance trains would be diverted by the 'fast line'

    And the SR route is not 'straight as a die' based on aerial photography, it appears to be not significantly less curvacious than the existing route, which is far too slow as it is.

    A new alignment appears to be the only solution
     
  27. YorkshireBear

    YorkshireBear Established Member

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    Surely you would make the diversion from just south of Exteter to Newton Abbot? With a local/regional service remaining on the other line.
     
  28. HowardGWR

    HowardGWR Established Member

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    No, I wasn't recommending it as a diversion route, albeit that it could so function when required, as it used to do, with loco crews and engines being switched between GWR and SR.

    The correspondent has asked what would improve connectivity and the SR line would, clearly, be useful for both sub-regional, regional and national traffic.

    The back route behind the coast from Exeter to NA may be the best diversion route between those two places (expensive though for what it achieves), but it does not improve connectivity, except perhaps a slight improvement in speed (from Dawlish Warren to Exeter, the present line is fast). As an OP has pointed out, the sea wall will have to maintained for its own sake and it's the sandstone cliffs behind that cause the problems there, not sea spray. I suspect that problem is capable of being handled as he suggested.
     
  29. Grumpy

    Grumpy Member

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    Cant disagree with most of the above but am surprised no-one’s raised tilting trains a means of reducing journey times.

    I think you need to decide which is the most important for connectivity i.e. is it internal to the area or connectivity to the rest of the UK and elsewhere. If the latter you might want to look at non-purely railway solutions. Thus the train from Newquay to Exeter (and points beyond) will take you three hours and above, a similar journey by road wouldn’t take much more than half that time most of the year. Perhaps the best way to link Cornwall to the rest of the UK (and increase overall railway use) is by decent connecting express coaches from St Davids.

    Similarly you might want to think about international connectivity by air. Plymouth airport has shut (its size was such that you couldn’t run economical aircraft out of it), and Newquay airport is just hanging on and doesn’t seem to have much of a future. What about a new airport west of Plymouth but handy for the A38 to serve west Cornwall and with an adjacent railway station e.g. somewhere like Trerulefoot? Giving Plymouth and Cornwall a decent gateway to Europe and beyond might do more for the economy than tinkering with closed lines.
     
  30. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    I think it's always a mixture of both to be honest, not an either/or choice. Obviously Cornwall needs good, robust InterCity connections to London and the North, but people still need to be able to get around locally.
     
  31. samhurst612

    samhurst612 Member

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    This is an interesting point Grumpy. Compared to the train, in normal traffic conditions a car (based on google maps) would not be a quicker transport method before Plymouth, however after Plymouth, a car will become more and more effective the further into Cornwall you get: Liskeard-14min Bodmin-32min St.Austell-34min Truro-43min Redruth-48min Penzance-47min. Other local or branch stations may even see much more: Hayle-70min St. Ives-78min Falmouth-56min Newquay-79min.

    Looking at these figures, it may be a sensible option to rely on high speed coaches into Cornwall however it is important to realize the limitations of Google Maps which doesn't take into account traffic and assumes all speeds are the limit (70mph) which coaches will not be. More research could definitely be done on this option however I would suggest that Plymouth be the Hub and not Exeter.
     
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