The reopening of the railway line between Bere Alston and Tavistock is to move forward following a meeting of Devon County Council’s cabinet on Wednesday. They supported plans to move the project to the stage where powers need to be sought to reopen the line. However, plans to develop a parallel cycle route have been scrapped.
The relevant aspects of the report to the Cabinet can be found below. Potentially, the railway could be deliver by 2019/20. Also of note is that the relationship with Kilbride Group has been terminated.
The need for further study work
The Tavistock to Bere Alston railway and pedestrian/cycle route project currently includes the following elements:
- A single track railway line between Tavistock and Bere Alston;
- A new station in the development area of Tavistock;
- Improvements to Bere Alston Station and the rail line there;
- A regular service between Tavistock and Plymouth with services during the peak hours; and
- The provision of a pedestrian/cycle trail.
The first, preparatory phase of the railway element of the project is to develop a scheme option for the railway. The consent for this would then be secured through a Development Consent Order or a Transport and Works Act Order. These consents’ processes require the compilation of significant supporting evidence including a business case, consultation with public and rail industry stakeholders, and a Public Examination or Public Inquiry. In order to develop a robust assessment of the scheme, the County Council has undertaken significant technical work to date. This includes:
- Topographical surveys;
- Structural surveys of cuttings, embankments, bridges, Shillamill Viaduct and Shillamill Tunnel;
- Mine surveys;
- Feasibility design work;
- Initial environmental surveys;
- Patronage forecasting; and
- Public consultation.
This package of work has allowed the project to progress towards the third stage in the Network Rail project development process, Governance for Railway Investment Projects (GRIP). GRIP stage 3 incorporates option selection and early steps towards the development of a single scheme option. This is programmed for completion by the end of 2014.
In order to progress the scheme to a stage at which powers to deliver the railway can be sought, significant additional work will be required. This would take the project up to the end of the GRIP stage 4 process which finalises the development of a single scheme option. This is programmed for completion in 2016. The future work which is required will include:
- The development of the funding package;
- Detailed design;
- More robust patronage forecasting;
- The development of an Environmental Statement;
- The development of a robust business case; and
- Land negotiations, acquisitions and requirement for land access.
It is anticipated that the land will be acquired once all the elements of the project are in place. However there may be a requirement, through blight, or opportunity to purchase some land early. There may also be a need to access third party land to undertake survey, design or other preparatory work in the development of the project. Approval is sought for such negotiations, acquisitions and access arrangements in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Economy and Growth and Cabinet Liaison for Exeter.
Approval is sought to continue progressing the scheme up to, and through, the process for securing the consents to deliver the railway, either through a Development Consent Order or through a Transport and Works Act Order. Consents would be sought in 2016/17, potentially allowing commencement of railway delivery in 2019/20.
The County Council has considered the current rail franchise situation in developing the Tavistock to Bere Alston Railway project and regards the future service as being operated by the future franchisee for the area. While there are currently uncertainties regarding the length of the next franchise period, through its input into future franchising arrangements the County Council will advocate that the train operating company will have a general obligation to work in partnership with the Authority. This will cover the development and reinstatement of the line between Bere Alston and a new Tavistock station, securing rolling stock for this purpose, and working together to fast-track infrastructure and new services.
Role of the County Council in leading on the rail project
Since the adoption of the West Devon Core Strategy in 2011 the County Council has moved forward with developing the railway and pedestrian/cycle route project. The County Council is now leading on the project and the involvement of Kilbride Group (referred to in the previous Executive Minutes as Kilbride Properties Ltd) has been diluted following the sale of their interest in the allocated site off Callington Road in Tavistock to Bovis Homes. As such, a joint venture partnership is no longer required. Approval is therefore sought to rescind the previous endorsement of the County Council to enter a joint venture partnership with Kilbride Properties Ltd.