Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Western - Newquay review 1

11/8/07  Par to Newquay

Cost of ticket £12.00 (Ride Cornwall rover ticket)

Dept Liskeard: 13.11   Arrive Newquay: 14.40

Journey time: 60 minutes (single track all the way)

Distance: 20 miles    Weather:  sunny

Train type: Class 43  High Speed Train (Midland Mainline stock)

Railway company: First Great Western

Frequency of trains - six per day

After travelling on the Looe branch I take the next train out of Liskeard, which is the Virgin operated Manchester Piccadilly to Newquay train. It's five minutes late and when it does arrive it's not a Virgin Voyager but rather a Midland Mainline HST, on loan to Virgin. It stops at Bodmin Parkway and then goes non-stop to Newquay. We leave the Cornish mainline at Par at around 13.40 and pass lots of EWS trucks in the St Blazey sidings to our left. Our train stops at the signal box, where he gets the single-line token from the signalman so we can proceed. You can actually see the two disused platforms of the old St Blazey station here as well as lots of unused sidings. We speed up to about 20 mph as we pass the village of St Blazey on our left. We then cross the A390 trunk road with a large tailback of cars waiting at the crossing. For some reason we then slow to about 10 mph as we leave St Blazey behind and go over our first viaduct at Prideaux. We enter a wooded area and speed up to 20 mph again, but the track is moving first to the left and then to the right for the next few miles. We go over two more viaducts at Pontsmill and Rockmill climbing upward between a deep rock cutting, before we reach Luxulyan station. It has a single platform with a white-brick shelter. It's flatter here as I spot a boat in a car park! Looking ahead I can see the first china clay mountains in the distance. We slow almost to a walking speed as we arrive at Goonbarrow Junction, where there are sidings on both side of the track. The track is double here and we wait about ten minutes for the 13.10 Newquay to Paddington train to pass us. We move on and pass more sidings with a shunter in them and then come to Bugle station, which is right next to the A391 trunk road. It's another single platform station with barely a shelter and not much else. It's suurounded by new cream coloured housing. You can see a large china clay waste tip on the left as we hit the highest speed of the whole journey from Par - 30 mph! The land is quite flat at the moment, but there are plenty of china clay mountains still on our left, which look like mini-volcanoes. We pass Roche station on our left, which has a pleasant wooden shelter on the platform. We now run parallel with the recently built A30 dual carriageway, busy with traffic arriving from the east. We slow down to 20 mph again as we pass a 5 mph speed restriction sign. Then we pass under the A30 and finally start to speed up again as we enter a cutting. We then go over the A392 road, which is going towards Newquay just like us. We are still going quite slowly as we pass through St Columb Road. It has a nice shelter and a small car park next to it. Ion the other side is a small factory. We go up to about 30 mph again, past cornfields being cut down on the left and campsites on our right. We have to slow right down again for an unmarked crossing and then speed up as we enter a moorland cutting with pink heather growing on either side. We emerge to see Newquay airport in the distance on the right. We pass through the final station before Newquay, that of Qunitrell Downs. It has a small shelter and a lower platform next to the road crossing. Then we catch a glimpse of Newquay on the horizon at last. We pass housing estates, then see hotels and then cross over the Trenance viaduct as we come into Newquay station. It has just the one long platform, though the original second platform is still in place, by the car park. We arrive at 14.40 dead on time, would you believe. The train I have just come on will form the 15.22 back to Manchester Piccadilly, arriving at 22.50 (via Crewe). There's already quite a few passengers waiting to get on the train when we pass through the tiny station concourse, but not many get off our train - no more than twenty.

Summary: This must rank as the slowest railway line in Britain, with so many speed restrictions.  I'm not sure how long this line may stay open. Although Newquay is still a major tourist resort, the competition from cheap flights must be working against the railways here, especially with the slowness of the journey. MC