Crossing the Exe at Cowley Bridge
|Termini||Exeter St Davids
|Operator(s)||Great Western Railway|
|Rolling stock||Class 143, 150 or 153 DMUs|
|Line length||39 mi (62.76 km)|
|Number of tracks||1|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Old gauge||7 ft 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm) Brunel gauge|
The Tarka Line (named after the animal hero in Henry Williamson's book Tarka the Otter) is a railway line from Exeter to Barnstaple in Devon, England. The line follows the River Creedy, River Yeo and River Taw for some of its route. At Coleford Junction there is a branch to Okehampton, which has recently reopened to passenger trains as the Dartmoor Railway.
Parts of the line are single track, meaning that trains travelling in opposite directions must sometimes wait for each other. The full journey from Barnstaple to Exeter takes just over 1 hour, on-par with the journey time in a car.
Beyond Barnstaple, the railway used to continue to Ilfracombe or Instow and Bideford. Part of the latter route is preserved as the Bideford & Instow Railway, while sections of both routes have been reopened as cycleways (rail trails) called the Tarka Trail.
Passenger services on the line are operated by Great Western Railway using Class 143, Class 150 or Class 153 diesel multiple units. During the summer months a Sunday-only service operates (on behalf of Devon County Council) between Exeter Central and Okehampton.
The majority of passengers travel to or from Barnstaple – about three times the number of all the other stations north of Exeter. Chapelton is the quietest station in Devon. Some of the smaller stations have seen a decline in passenger numbers during the last few years, although there have been significant increases at Umberleigh, Eggesford, and Copplestone and on the line overall. Comparing the year from April 2009 to that which started in April 2002, passenger numbers at Barnstaple have increased by 71%.
|Newton St Cyres||1,147||702||780||889||1,662||1,868||1,784||2,774||3,212||2,252||2,760|
|The annual passenger usage is based on sales of tickets in stated financial years from Office of Rail Regulation statistics. The statistics are for passengers arriving and departing from each station and cover twelve month periods that start in April. Please note that methodology may vary year on year.|
Stations marked with ≠ only operate on summer
Sundays only and are on the Dartmoor Railway.
Mileage from Exeter St Davids railway station
The Tarka Line is one of the railway lines supported by the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, an organisation formed in 1991 to promote railway services in the area. The line is promoted by many means such as regular timetable and scenic line guides, as well as leaflets highlighting leisure opportunities such as walking or visiting country pubs.
The Tarka Line Rail Ale Trail was launched in 2002, the first of several such schemes which encourages rail travellers to visit pubs near the line. The trail originally covered 16 pubs, and the number has risen and fallen over the years, but in 2016 is 18 pubs. There are five pubs each in Exeter and four in Barnstaple, with one each at Newton St Cyres, Crediton, Yeoford, Copplestone, Morchard Road, Lapford, Eggesford, Portsmouth Arms, and Umberleigh. 5, 10 or 18 stamps collected in the Rail Ale Trail leaflet entitle the participant to claim special Tarka Line Rail Trail souvenir merchandise.
Wessex Trains covered Class 150 2-car DMU number 150241 in coloured pictures promoting the line and named The Tarka Belle. It is still in service with Great Western Railway (Formerly First Great Western) but is currently in dynamic lines livery.
The line was designated by the Department for Transport as a community rail line in September 2006. This aims to increase revenue and reduce costs. Among possible options are increasing the car parking at stations, looking at ways to increase the train frequency, and assisting the Dartmoor Railway to operate a connecting service between Yeoford and Okehampton.
- "Station Usage". Rail Statistics. Office of Rail Regulation. Retrieved 2009-03-13.
- Falconer, Kieran (6 September 2009). "All abroad the real ale train". Express. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
- Hancock, Nick (16 September 2009). "Rail ale drinkers are back on right track". Express and Echo. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
- "Tarka Line Rail Ale Trail". Great Scenic Railways. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
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