Plymouth railway station

Plymouth railway station

Infobox UK station
name = Plymouth
manager = First Great Western
locale = Plymouth
borough = City of Plymouth
latitude = 50.37780
longitude = -4.14301
platforms = 6

code = PLY
usage0203 = 1.432
usage0405 = 1.519
usage0506 = 1.629
usage0607 = 1.846
years = 1877
original = GWR and LSWR Joint
postgroup = GWR and SR Joint
events = Opened
events1 = Rebuilding started
years1 = 1938
events2 = "North Road" name dropped
years2 = 1958
events3 = Rebuilding completed
years3 = 1962|

Plymouth railway station serves the city of Plymouth, Devon, England. It is situated on the northern edge of the city centre close to the North Cross roundabout. It has the largest number of passengers starting and finishing their journeys at any station in the county, and is the largest of the six surviving railway stations in the city, being the only one served by InterCity trains.

Originally named Plymouth North Road, it was opened in 1877 as a joint station for the Great Western Railway (GWR) and the London and South Western Railway (LSWR). It was expanded in 1908 but a major rebuilding scheme that started in 1938 was delayed by the Second World War and was not completed until 1962. John Betjeman commented unfavourably on its new form in his introduction to "The Book of the Great Western": ::"Plymouth (North Road) dullest of stations and no less dull now it has been rebuilt in copybook contemporary." [cite book| last = Perry| first = George (editor)| title = 'The Book of the Great Western| publisher = Sunday Times Magazine| date = 1970| location = London| id = ISBN 0-72300-018-2]

It is currently operated by First Great Western, being located on their London to Penzance Line convert|225.75|mi|km|0 from London Paddington station,cite web |title = National Rail Timetable 135 (Summer 2008)|publisher= Network Rail|url =|format=PDF|accessdate=2008-05-30] but also sees trains operated by CrossCountry and South West Trains. The Panel Signal Box at the station controls all trains between Totnes in Devon, and Liskeard in Cornwall.


The first railway station in Plymouth was opened by the South Devon Railway on 2 April 1849 [cite book| last = Gregory| first = R H| title = The South Devon Railway| publisher = Oakwood Press| date = 1982| location = Salisbury| id = ISBN 0-853612-86-2] at Millbay, on the site now occupied by the Plymouth Pavilions. This company amalgamated with the GWR in 1876, just as the LSWR was completing its rival route from London to Plymouth. [cite book| last = MacDermot| first = E T| title = History of the Great Western Railway, volume II 1863-1921| publisher = Great Western Railway| date = 1931| location = London] North Road station was opened on 28 March 1877 to provide a joint facility for trains of both companies. It was just west of the earlier Mutley railway station, while at its west end a new junction allowed direct access to the Cornwall Railway and the LSWR's Devonport Kings Road railway station.

The station was built of wood and the platforms were fully covered by train sheds. It originally had just two through platforms but additional platforms were added in a scheme executed in 1908. Further major rebuilding work started in 1938; one signal box was replaced and the second moved to make way for the new works, and Houndiscombe Road bridge at the east end of the station was rebuilt. Work was soon stopped due to the Second World War but on North Road was increased when Millbay station had to be closed to passengers in 1941 following an air raid.cite book| last = Smith| first = Martin| title = An Illustrated History of Plymouth's Railways| publisher = Irwell Press| date = 1995| location = Caernarfon| id = ISBN 1-817608-41-4]

The old LSWR Friary station was closed from 15 September 1958, following which North Road was renamed as just 'Plymouth'.cite book| last = Oakley| first = Mike| title = Devon Railway Stations| publisher = The Dovecote Press| date = 2007| location = Wimbourne| id = ISBN 1-904349-55-6] Further closures during the next few years of former LSWR stations and GWR branch lines has left just six stations in the city (Devonport, Dockyard, Keyham and two in St Budeaux – Victoria Road and Ferry Road)cite web |title = National Rail Timetable 139 (Summer 2008)|publisher= Network Rail|url =|format=PDF|accessdate=2008-05-30] – although local passengers also come from stations a little further afield such as Saltash, St Germans and Ivybridge.

The rebuilding work was resumed in 1956 and the new station with its large office block, 'Intercity House', was formally opened by Dr Richard Beeching, the British Railways Chairman, on 26 March 1962. The office block was intended to be the northern point of Armada Way, counterbalancing the tower of the Civic Centre at the southern end, in the Abercrombie/Paton-Watson 'Plan for Plymouth'. [cite web | last =Mosley | first =Brian | title =A Plan for Plymouth | work =Encyclopedia of Plymouth History | publisher =Plymouth Data | url = | accessdate = 2008-08-22] The station now had seven through platforms, although two of these were converted to terminal bay platforms in 1974. One of these at the west end is usually used for the Tamar Valley Line servicecite web| title =Plymouth| work =Live Departures and Arrivals| publisher =National Rail| url =| accessdate = 2008-07-22] but the longer east end bays were used for parcels and for Royal Mail trains until the withdrawal of this traffic from the area in 2003. Outside the station a car park was provided, which was rebuilt in its current multistorey form in the 1970s.


The station was originally controlled from two signal boxes. 'North Road East' was situated on the north side of the line to the east of the station, while 'North Road West' was on the south side of the line at the west end of the station where it could control the junction of the original lines to Millbay with the new Cornwall Loop Line to Devonport. The adjacent signal boxes were at Mutley to the east, Cornwall Junction on the Millbay line, and Devonport Junction at the far end of the Cornwall Loop. cite book| last = Crozier| first = Larry| title = Mechanical Signalling in Plymouth| publisher = Signalling Record Society| date = 2000| location = Wallasey| id = ISBN 1-873228-18-X]

Both of the North Road boxes were closed in November 1908 and replaced by new ones with the same names. The West box was now situated on the north side of the line and had 59 levers, while the East box needed just 48. They were each convert|38|ft|m|1 long. Mutley box closed at the same time, the next box now being at Mannamead on the other side of Mutley Tunnel, which had opened about three years earlier.

The rebuilding work of 1938 meant more signalling alterations. On 22 January 1938 the timber West box was lifted up and moved to a new position clear of the proposed works, being brought back into use on 27 January 1938. At the other end of the station the East box was closed and a new convert|79|ft|m|1 structure built, again on the north side of the line, which was brought into use on 25 June 1939.

Both signal boxes were closed on 26 November 1960 when a new 'Plymouth Panel Signal Box' was opened on the west end of the new Platform 1; the West box was subsequently demolished, but the East box still stands on the north side of the line close to the bridge that carries Houndiscombe Road over the line. Multiple-aspect signals have controlled movements of trains throughout the Plymouth area since the opening of this new signal box in 1960. The adjacent boxes were initially at Laira Junction in the east and Keyham in the west. The area of control was extended westwards on 2 July 1973 to meet the signal box at St Germans, which in closed in 1998 [cite book| last = Pryer| first = GA| title = Signal Box Diagrams of the Great Western & Southern Railways, Volume 14: GWR Lines Plymouth and East Cornwall| publisher = GA Pryer| location = Weymouth| id = ISBN 0-953246-05-1] so the next signal box westwards is now at Liskeard railway station. Towards the end of 1973 several more signal boxes were closed eastwards from Plymouth, which meant that Plymouth controlled trains until they reached the outer signal of Totnes Signal Box. Totnes box closed on 9 November 1987 when a new panel signal box at Exeter was opened.


The station has its entrance on the south side which gives access to the city centre. The west side of the station concourse is the ticket office, while on the north and east sides are various retail outlets selling food and newspapers. [cite web| title =Plymouth| work =Station Facilities| publisher =National Rail| url =| accessdate = 2008-07-22] There is also a small buffet outlet on platforms 7 and 8. The platform area is separated from the concourse by ticket gates.

The platforms that can be reached on the level from the concourse are numbered 1 to 4. Platforms 1 and 2 are east-facing bay platforms, not used by passenger trains. Platform 3 is a west-facing bay platform that is mainly used by local services to Gunnislake and sometimes Penzance.

The remaining platforms are reached by a subway immediately inside the ticket gates; there are lifts to the subway on each of the groups of platforms.. They are all through tracks and are signalled so that trains can arrive and depart in either direction.cite book| last = Jacobs| first = Gerald| title = Railway Track Diagrams Book 3: Western| publisher = Trackmaps| date = 2005| location = Bradford-on-Avon| id = ISBN 0-954986-61-X] Platform 4 is used by most through services towards Penzance, but also for some trains towards London. Platforms 5 and 6 are either side of the middle island platform and are used by a variety of services, including First Great Western local trains and long distance CrossCountry services. Platforms 7 and 8 are either side of a second island platform; there is a small coffee shop facing the subway steps on this platform. Most First Great Western High Speed Trains to London Paddington station depart from platform 7, but both these platforms are used by a variety of services from Cornwall towards London and the North as well as some local services.

Beyond Platform 8 are two tracks, known as Park Sidings, which are used for stabling trains between services, but most trains are nowadays kept on the platform tracks between arrival and departure. There are some more sidings adjacent to platform 1. There is an extra track between platforms 4 and 5 for through goods trains and shunting manoeuvres.


Plymouth is served by First Great Western trains on the main line from London, some of which terminate at Plymouth but many continue over the Cornish Main Line to Penzance. A number of prestigious named trains operate on this route including the Cornish Riviera, a fast London to Penzance service, and the overnight Night Riviera service on the same route.

There is also a limited service by South West Trains from London Waterloo station to Plymouth, [cite web |title = National Rail Timetable 160 (Summer 2008)|publisher= Network Rail|url =|format=PDF|accessdate=2008-05-30] one of which continues to Penzance on Saturday and returns on Sunday. Most CrossCountry trains from Scotland and the North of England via Bristol terminate at Plymouth, although a number continue to Penzance in the evening and return the next morning. [cite web |title = National Rail Timetable 51 (Summer 2008)|publisher= Network Rail|url =|format=PDF|accessdate=2008-05-30] On summer weekends some trains from Paddington and some from the North continue into Cornwall to serve Newquay.

Local services are provided by First Great Western along the Cornish Main Line and also on the Tamar Valley Line to Gunnislake. A number of these continue eastwards on the London route to destinations such as Exeter St Davids.

Passenger volume

Plymouth sees a larger number of passengers starting or finishing their journey than any other station in Devon, although Exeter St Davids has more passengers due to a larger number changing trains there. Comparing the year from April 2006 to that which started in April 2002, passenger numbers increased by 29%.cite web| title =Station Usage| work =Rail Statistics| publisher =Office of Rail Regulation| url=|publisher =Office of Rail Regulation| accessdate = 2008-06-30] The statistics cover twelve month periods that start in April.

ee also

*Railways in Plymouth


Further reading

*cite book| last = Beck| first = Keith| coauthor = Copsey, John| title = The Great Western in South Devon| publisher = Wild Swan Publication| date = 1990| location = Didcot| id = ISBN 0-906867-90-8
*cite book| last = Cooke| first = R A| title = Track Layout Diagrams of the GWR and BR WR: Section 12, Plymouth| publisher = R A Cooke| date = 1979| location = Harwell
*cite book| last = Leitch| first = Russell| title = Plymouth's Railways in the 1930s| publisher = Railway Correspondence and Travel Society| date = 2002| location = Peterborough| id = ISBN 0-901115-91-6
*cite web | last =Mosley | first =Brian | title =Plymouth Station | work =Encyclopedia of Plymouth History | publisher =Plymouth Data | url = | accessdate = 2008-08-22

External links

* [ BBC archive films: Plymouth to Dartmoor train] Swcp
anti-nextstation=Kingswear convert|65|mi|km
clck-nextstation=Looe convert|21|mi|km

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