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+The Riviera Line is a local railway line that links the city of Exeter with the “English Riviera” resorts of Torbay in Devon, England. It is linked with the Exeter to Plymouth Line with which it shares the route along the South Devon sea wall. It is part of the Network Rail Route 12 (Reading to Penzance).
The line from Exeter to Teignmouth was opened by the South Devon Railway Company on 30 May 1846 and was extended to Newton Abbot on 30 December 1846. After the company had completed its main line to Plymouth it opened a branch from Newton Abbot to Torquay (the present Torre railway station) on 18 December 1848. Nine years later this was extended as the independent Dartmouth and Torbay Railway to Paignton on 2 August 1859.
These lines were built as single-track, 7 ft (2,134 mm) broad gauge railways by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. They were designed for atmospheric power and although this was only used from 13 September 1847 until 9 September 1848; the remains of several of the South Devon Railway engine houses used for the stationary engines can still be seen by the side of the line. The track was converted to standard gauge on 21 May 1892. Double track was laid in sections over a period of several years, requiring the widening or removal of several tunnels near Teignmouth.
The Dartmouth and Torquay Railway was operated from the outset by the South Devon Railway and amalgamated with it in 1872. This company in turn amalgamated with the Great Western Railway on 1 February 1876. The GWR was nationalised on 1 January 1948 as part of British Railways.
In 1977 the Parliamentary Select Committee on Nationalised Industries recommended considering electrification of more of Britain’s rail network, and by 1979 BR presented a range of options to do so by 2000. Some included electrifying the Bristol to Exeter line, Exeter to Plymouth Line, Riviera Line and Cornish Main Line. Under the 1979–90 Conservative governments that succeeded the 1976–79 Labour government the proposal was not implemented. At present, there are no proposals to electrify the line or any other railway lines in Devon or Cornwall.
South West Trains operated several services between London Waterloo and Paignton via Salisbury for several years, as well as some to Plymouth or Penzance. Since December 2009 their services only operate east of Exeter St Davids.
Local passenger services on the line are currently operated by Great Western Railway. Most days see an approximately hourly service calling at all stations, which runs beyond Exeter to and from Exmouth along the Avocet Line – more frequent at peak times. On Sundays a more restricted service operates, most of which terminate at Exeter.
Other services on the line include Great Western Railway express services from London Paddington and CrossCountry services from the Midlands and the North. These mostly call only at Exeter St Davids, Dawlish, Teignmouth, Newton Abbot, Torquay, and Paignton. Other long-distance services of the same operators call at Exeter, Dawlish, Teignmouth and Newton Abbot before continuing to Plymouth or even Penzance.