Marsh Barton

This is one of three stations that were scheduled to open in 2023 within the Great Western Railway (GWR) franchise area. Proposals for a two-platform halt at Marsh Barton — the location of Exeter’s largest trading estate, on the city’s southern fringes — date back to 2011 as part of the "Devon Metro" initiative. This plan sought to grow passenger use of the railway lines that served Exeter and its surroundings, and included the opening of four new stations over the subsequent fifteen year period: Cranbrook (near Broad Clyst), Edginswell (Torquay), Marsh Barton, and Newcourt (little over a mile north of Topsham on the Exmouth branch). Of these, Newcourt was the first to open to traffic on 4th June 2015 (ref: The Railway Magazine, July 2015); Cranbrook followed on 13th December of the same year (ref: The Railway Magazine, January 2016).

In August 2015, it was reported that £660,000 of funding had been committed specifically for Marsh Barton station (ref: Extraordinary Meeting of Exeter City Council, 12th August 2015). On 26th August of the following year, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced a £20,000,000 scheme which sought to build new stations — or reopen old ones — by providing grants to fund up to 75% of construction costs. Ten new stations were to be prioritised as part of these proposals, which included Marsh Barton and Edginswell (ref: The Railway Magazine, October 2016).

The original estimated cost of providing a station at Marsh Barton was £4,300,000; however, by 2018, that had ballooned to £13,000,000, and the project had failed to secure funding from the DfT. Cost increases had been attributed to changes in design standards by Network Rail, and the DfT suggested that timetabling challenges — rather than the escalating costs — worsened the case for Marsh Barton (ref: Rail Magazine No. 851, 25th April 2018). In January 2021, when construction was formally given the go-ahead, the cost had further increased to £16,000,000 (ref: The Railway Magazine, March 2021).

The site chosen for the new station was situated two-miles south of Exeter St David’s, in the shadow of the city’s huge waste incinerator. The contractor for the works was construction and civil engineering firm "Graham". Vegetation clearance started in April 2021 and, by the following September, construction of the platforms’ foundations had begun. The platforms are of concrete beam and slab construction, 124-metres in length, and capable of accommodating trains of six-carriage length (ref: Marsh Barton Station Business Case, Heart of South West Local Transport Board, May 2014). The station project involved the installation of a new 16-metre pedestrian and cycle bridge at the northern ends of the platforms, which was lifted into position in the early hours of Saturday, 26th February 2022 (ref: Exeter City Council News, 2nd March 2022).

The ceremonial opening of Marsh Barton station occurred on Monday, 3rd July 2023, led by the Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper. Scheduled services commenced the following day (ref: Modern Railways, 14th July 2023). The opening of the first new station of 2023 within the GWR franchise at Reading Green Park had taken place on 27th May of that year (ref: The Railway Magazine, July 2023). Portway Park & Ride in Bristol, GWR’s third new station of 2023, was inaugurated on 31st July and saw its first regular scheduled trains the following day (ref: The Railway Magazine, September 2023).

1st September 2023

The station had been open for about two months by the time of this southward view from the "up" platform. The station is unstaffed and, during the day, maintains approximately an hourly service in each direction. © Mike Glasspool

1st September 2023

Another southward view from the "up" side shows to good effect the scale of step-free access at the site. "Paragon Anti-Vandal Shelters" have been installed at the station; these are standard type employed network-wide, produced by architectural and manufacturing firm "Macemain Amstad". © Mike Glasspool

1st September 2023

A northward view shows the new green-coloured bridge for pedestrians and cyclists, which was installed as part of the station works. The bridge forms a public right of way and its use is not limited to station passengers. © Mike Glasspool