WHEN the Barnstaple A361 bypass was built, enough height was given under the flyovers for a train to pass.

Hearing about hopes for that new railway, Crediton Town Council last week gave its support to a plan to extend the Tarka Line railway to Bideford from Barnstaple, the ambition outlined by four rail enthusiasts.

ACE Rail (Atlantic Coast to Exeter Railway) is the name of the campaign to connect Bideford once again to the national rail network through the Tarka Line.

Launched last year, it already has the support of MPs and local authorities for a service that could put Bideford an hour from Exeter and bring new vitality to that coast as a place to live, work, visit and enjoy.

The ACE Rail campaign, part of Tarka Rail Association, is affiliated to Railfuture, the UK’s leading independent organisation campaigning for better rail services for passengers and freight. It is a voluntary group with 12 branches in England including the Devon and Cornwall Group.

A member of the Tarka Rail Association Committee, ACE Rail lead and director of Bideford Railway Heritage Centre, Tim Steer is the station manager at Bideford.

He told Crediton Town Council that his great grandfather was born at Crediton and was signalman at Crediton for 37 years from 1899. He added that his grandfather worked on the railway at Barnstaple for 41 years.

He said Bideford was the largest town in Devon without a railway station and it, as well as Fremington, was reliant on a passenger bus service which could be unpredictable.

A bus could take 50 people, they could cycle, they could be stuck in traffic in cars, or a train could take 500 people in one service.

Tim said ACE Rail was securing funding for an independent specialist advisor to produce an initial business case for the project.

He explained that Railfuture and the Tarka Rail Association have part-funded the report. Tarka Rail Association had applied to GWR’s community fund for extra support.

Answering questions, Tim said much of the route of the old railway line to Bideford was now part of the Tarka Trail but a new line could be built beside that.

He added that the opportunities from opening the railway to Okehampton for passengers had been “enormous” and of real benefit to people there and into north Cornwall.

He also said that since Crediton had received a half-hourly rail service, passenger numbers had increased.

Sue Read