Exeter St Davids railway station

Coordinates: 50°43′47″N 3°32′37″W / 50.7296°N 3.5435°W / 50.7296; -3.5435
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Exeter St Davids
National Rail
General information
Coordinates50°43′47″N 3°32′37″W / 50.7296°N 3.5435°W / 50.7296; -3.5435
Grid referenceSX911933
Managed byGreat Western Railway
Other information
Station codeEXD
ClassificationDfT category C1
Original companyBristol and Exeter Railway
Pre-groupingGreat Western Railway
Post-groupingGreat Western Railway
Key dates
1864Rebuilt for LSWR
1913Rebuilt without roof
2017/18Decrease 2.605 million
 Interchange Increase 1.060 million
2018/19Increase 2.620 million
 Interchange Decrease 1.049 million
2019/20Increase 2.676 million
 Interchange Increase 1.064 million
2020/21Decrease 0.728 million
 Interchange Decrease 0.346 million
2021/22Increase 2.207 million
 Interchange Increase 0.888 million
Passenger statistics from the Office of Rail and Road

Exeter St Davids is the principal railway station serving the city of Exeter in Devon, England. It is 193 miles 72 chains (193.90 mi; 312.1 km) from the zero point at London Paddington[1] on the line through Bristol which continues to Plymouth and Penzance. It is also served by an alternative route to London Waterloo via Salisbury and branch lines to Exmouth, Barnstaple, and Okehampton. It is currently managed by Great Western Railway and is served by trains operated by Great Western Railway, South Western Railway and CrossCountry.


Exeter in 1844. A print by William Spreat showing St Davids in 1844.

The station was opened on 1 May 1844 by the Bristol and Exeter Railway (B&ER).[2] The station was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and was one of his single-sided stations which meant that the two platforms were both on the eastern side of the line. This side is nearer the city and so very convenient for passengers travelling into Exeter, but did mean that many trains had to cross in front of others.

This was not a significant issue while the station was at the end of the line, but on 30 May 1846 the South Devon Railway (SDR) opened a line westwards towards Plymouth.[3] A carriage shed was built for the SDR at the south end of the B&ER platform but the goods sheds and locomotive sheds for both companies were to the west, between the station and the River Exe. The SDR was designed to be worked by atmospheric power and an engine house was built on the banks of the river near the locomotive shed.[4] This was only used for its original purpose for about a year but was not demolished until many years later.

The next railway to arrive at St Davids was the Exeter and Crediton Railway on 12 May 1851, the junction of which is to the north of the station at Cowley Bridge Junction. This line was worked by the B&ER and trains were accommodated at the existing platforms. All these railways were built to the 7 ft (2,134 mm) broad gauge, but on 1 February 1862, the 4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) gauge London and South Western Railway (LSWR) brought a line into the station from their own central station in Queen Street. The LSWR owned the Exeter and Crediton Railway and started to work the line for itself, although the broad gauge was retained for the B&ER to work goods trains to Crediton.[2]

The transfer shed built in the 1860s

With two gauges and four companies using the single-sided station, it was in need of remodelling. A new double-sided platform opened on the western side of the line and the original up platform at the northern end was closed. The original platforms had all been constructed with individual train sheds covering the tracks, and the opportunity was taken to replace these with one large train shed across all the main tracks and platforms. North of the station was a level crossing and just beyond this an additional goods shed was constructed. Unlike the earlier ones, it was solely for transferring goods between the trains of the two different gauges. These buildings were all designed by Francis Fox, the B&ER engineer, and Henry Lloyd[5] and the work was completed in 1864.

The B&ER was amalgamated with the Great Western Railway on 1 January 1876 and the SDR did the same thing exactly one month later. The main line from Bristol was rebuilt with mixed gauge track that allowed broad gauge trains to run through from London Paddington to Penzance, while at the same time offering a standard gauge track for local trains from Bristol Temple Meads; the new line was ready by 1 March 1876.

The train shed was removed in 1912-13 and the platforms extended northwards towards the level crossing.[6] A second island platform was provided on the west side and this entailed the goods shed being narrowed from two tracks to one at their southern end. The middle island platform was mainly used for LSWR trains while "down" GWR services towards the West Country used the original main platform and the new island platforms. Before Southern Region services to Plymouth were abandoned, passengers could see Plymouth-bound services of the Western Region and Southern Region leaving St Davids in opposite directions. The station has remained largely in this form since, but resignalling works in 1985 saw the ex-LSWR services moved to the main platform so that down ex-GWR line services did not have to cross their path at the south end of the station. A through-line between platforms 1 and 3 was removed at the same time. The new signal box was built on the site of the old atmospheric engine house and replaced three older signal boxes.

Remains of the earlier stations can still be seen. The main façade dates from 1864 and the Great Western Hotel dates from the earliest days, as does the southern section of platform 1. The goods shed opposite platform 6 shows the angle where the southern end was cut back in 1912, and at the northern end, part of the original goods shed still stands beneath later extensions. The 1864 transfer shed can still be seen beside the line beyond Red Cow Crossing; it is now a Grade II listed building.[7]

Station Masters[edit]

  • William Mears ca. 1850 - 1891
  • Samuel Morris 1891 - 1900[8]
  • H.E. Williams 1900[9] - 1911 (formerly station master at Newton Abbot)
  • John Lea 1911 - 1922[10] (formerly station master at Slough, afterwards station master at Reading)
  • W.E. Denton 1922 - 1926
  • A.J. Humphrey 1926[11] - 1928 (formerly station master of Weymouth)
  • Ernest Tom Evans 1928 - 1938 (formerly station master at Gloucester)
  • W.J. Gush 1938[12] - 1939
  • William Nicholls 1939[13] - 1945 (formerly station master at Wolverhampton Low Level)
  • F.G. Elmore ca. 1950


The main buffet and bookshop are both outside the ticket gates. There are also a number of local shops outside the station along with the Great Western Hotel and a Premier Inn hotel. There is a smaller buffet on platforms 5 & 6.[14]

The main passenger footbridge has many paintings resembling frescoes and depicting romantic versions of rail travel. A second bridge fitted with lifts provides disabled access. When the lifts are out of use, a member of station staff escorts people across a foot crossing at track level towards the south of the station.


Exeter St Davids
Riverside Goods
Red Cow Crossing
Exeter St Davids
Exeter TMD
Track layout in 2009
View from Red Cow level crossing. The yellow Network Rail train is in platform 2; platform 3 is straight ahead; the old goods shed is on the right.

The station entrance is on the east side of the line, facing the city centre which is about a 15 minutes walk. The routes to the centre and Exeter University are well signposted. There are also frequent bus services to the centre from outside the station and trains to Exmouth and London Waterloo call at Exeter Central.

Beyond platform six is the Exeter panel signal box that controls not just St Davids but also the main line north through to Taunton & Cogload Junction and southwards to Totnes & Torquay as well the branches out to Exmouth Junction and Crediton. Next to this is Exeter Traincare Depot where DMU sets used on local services are fuelled. A goods shed is situated beyond Red Cow Crossing at the north end of the platforms, and finally beyond that is Riverside Yard which still sees goods traffic. Cowley Bridge Junction is about a mile away at the far end of Riverside Yard, but the junction for the Exeter Central line is right by the south end of the platforms. This line curves eastwards and climbs steeply to cross a small viaduct before entering a tunnel beneath the city; the main line instead stays on the level and crosses both the River Exe and the city's flood defence channel before curving gently out of sight.

Aerial view from the South

Platform layout[edit]

The entrance is on platform 1, which is mainly used for trains to and from Exeter Central and Barnstaple. It is signalled so that two trains can be on the platform simultaneously, with the south end marked as platform 1A. At the north end is platform 2, a separate bay platform that is used from time to time for trains to and from the north – mainly Bristol and Barnstaple – that start or terminate at St Davids.

The middle pair of platforms is numbered 3 & 4. The former is used by similar trains to platform 1, but platforms 4-6 do not have access to the lines from Exeter Central. Instead platform 4 is the main platform for inter-city trains to Paignton, Plymouth and Penzance. Trains from both platforms 1 and 3 can also reach this route so trains from Exmouth that continue westwards will reverse in one of these platforms.

The third platform block sees northbound trains to London Paddington and the North use platform 5. Various local services use platform 6 as do trains from Paddington or the North that terminate at Exeter then return northwards.


Great Western Railway services to and from London Paddington

There are two direct routes from St Davids to London. The main line is generally considered to be the Great Western Railway service to London Paddington via Reading, which includes the Night Riviera sleeping car service.[15] However, there is also a service operated by South Western Railway on the West of England Line to London Waterloo via Salisbury and Basingstoke.[16] Because of this, the station is one of the few that has trains to London departing in opposite directions at either end of the station – those to Paddington leave northwards while those to Waterloo head south but turn eastwards, and start the steep climb to Exeter Central just outside the station.

London services run hourly between Exeter St Davids and London Waterloo and at least hourly between Exeter St Davids and London Paddington (fast trains every hour, with additional semi-fast trains every other hour stopping at some intermediate stations). The fastest trains between Exeter St Davids and London Paddington take just over 2 hours.

Great Western Railway also runs services to Cardiff Central via Bristol Temple Meads, approximately hourly in the mornings and reducing in frequency throughout the day.

Further long-distance services are operated by CrossCountry to Birmingham New Street, Manchester Piccadilly, Sheffield, Leeds, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.[17] These services are roughly hourly for much of the day between Birmingham New Street and Exeter St Davids.

Four local routes converge at St Davids – the Avocet Line from Exmouth,[18] the Tarka Line from Barnstaple,[18] the Riviera Line from Paignton and the Dartmoor Line from Okehampton.[15] Trains from Exmouth generally continue to Paignton every half hour, providing a cross-Exeter service.

Preceding station National Rail National Rail Following station
Tiverton Parkway   CrossCountry
Scotland and North England to South West
Tiverton Parkway   Great Western Railway
London Paddington to South West
South Wales to South West
Exeter Central   Great Western Railway
Avocet Line and Riviera Line
  Exeter St Thomas
  Great Western Railway
Tarka Line and Dartmoor line
  Newton St Cyres
Exeter Central   South Western Railway
London Waterloo to Exeter St Davids

Bus services[edit]

Bus services from the station, operated by Stagecoach South West, include destinations throughout the city, plus Okehampton, Tiverton, Crediton, Bideford and Barnstaple.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

On 4 January 2010, Class 142 diesel multiple unit 142 029 collided with a train comprising two Class 159 diesel multiple units at platform 1. Nine people were injured.[19]

Passenger volume[edit]

Exeter St Davids is the busiest station in Devon, handling around 2,619,776 passengers a year in 2018/19. This is just ahead of nearby Exeter Central station (2,532,450) and 200,000 more than Plymouth, where 2,416,376 journeys began or ended. Comparing the year from April 2007 to that which started in April 2002, passenger numbers increased by 30%.[20]

  2002-03 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
Entries 766,438 817,325 851,156 902,106 993,505 1,064,292 1,076,393 1,133,025 1,197,061
Exits 763,280 814,960 846,271 898,727 988,931 1,064,292 1,076,393 1,133,025 1,197,061
Interchanges unknown 402,464 417,684 445,833 455,666 680,797 593,759 638,146 784,929
Total 1,529,718 2,034,749 2,115,112 2,246,666 2,438,102 2,809,381 2,746,545 2,904,196 3,179,051

The statistics cover twelve month periods that start in April.


  1. ^ Padgett, David (June 2018) [1989]. Munsey, Myles (ed.). Railway Track Diagrams 3: Western & Wales (6th ed.). Frome: Trackmaps. map 8A. ISBN 978-1-9996271-0-2.
  2. ^ a b MacDermot, E T (1931). History of the Great Western Railway, volume II 1863-1921. London: Great Western Railway.
  3. ^ Gregory, R H (1982). The South Devon Railway. Salisbury: Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-286-2.
  4. ^ Kay, Peter (1991). Exeter - Newton Abbot: A Railway History. Sheffield: Platform 5 Publishing. ISBN 1-872524-42-7.
  5. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus; Cherry, Bridget (1991). The Buildings of England. Devon. Yale University Press. p. 409. ISBN 9780300095968.
  6. ^ Beck, Keith; Copsey, John (1990). The Great Western in South Devon. Didcot: Wild Swan Publication. ISBN 0-906867-90-8.
  7. ^ Historic England. "FORMER TRANSIT SHED, EXETER ST DAVIDS STATION (1268441)". National Heritage List for England.
  8. ^ "Presentations to Mr. Morris late Stationmaster of St David's". Western Times. England. 23 October 1900. Retrieved 17 September 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  9. ^ "Local News". Western Times. England. 4 June 1900. Retrieved 17 September 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  10. ^ "Gifts to Ex-Stationmaster at St David's". Western Times. England. 27 May 1922. Retrieved 17 September 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  11. ^ "New Stationmaster". Western Morning News. England. 23 June 1926. Retrieved 17 September 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  12. ^ "A GWR Appointment". Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser. England. 8 January 1938. Retrieved 17 September 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  13. ^ "Cornishman becomes Stationmaster at Exeter St David's". Western Times. England. 18 August 1939. Retrieved 17 September 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  14. ^ Oakley, Mike (2007). Devon Railway Stations. Wimborne Minster: The Dovecote Press. ISBN 978-1-904349-55-6.
  15. ^ a b "National Rail Timetable 135 (May 2016)" (PDF). Network Rail. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 September 2016.
  16. ^ "National Rail Timetable 160 (May 2016)" (PDF). Network Rail. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 September 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  17. ^ "National Rail Timetable 51 (May 2016)" (PDF). Network Rail. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 September 2016.
  18. ^ a b "National Rail Timetable 136 (May 2016)" (PDF). Network Rail. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 September 2016.
  19. ^ "Collision at Exeter St Davids station 4 January 2010" (PDF). Rail Accidents Investigation Branch. June 2010. Report 10/2010. Retrieved 13 February 2010.
  20. ^ "Estimates of station usage". Office of Rail and Road. Retrieved 11 March 2022.

External links[edit]