Exeter St Davids railway station

This article is about one of the stations in Exeter, England. For other similarly named stations, see Exeter railway station (disambiguation).
Exeter St Davids National Rail
Place Exeter
Local authority Exeter
Coordinates 50°43′47″N 3°32′37″W / 50.7296°N 3.54354°W / 50.7296; -3.54354Coordinates: 50°43′47″N 3°32′37″W / 50.7296°N 3.54354°W / 50.7296; -3.54354
Grid reference SX911933
Station code EXD
Managed by Great Western Railway
Number of platforms 6
DfT category C1
Live arrivals/departures, station information and onward connections
from National Rail Enquiries
Annual rail passenger usage*
2010/11 Increase 2.266 million
– Interchange  Increase 0.638 million
2011/12 Increase 2.399 million
– Interchange  Increase 0.785 million
2012/13 Increase 2.401 million
– Interchange  Increase 0.860 million
2013/14 Decrease 2.356 million
– Interchange  Decrease 0.841 million
2014/15 Increase 2.509 million
– Interchange  Increase 0.939 million
Original company Bristol and Exeter Railway
Pre-grouping Great Western Railway
Post-grouping Great Western Railway
1844 Opened
1864 Rebuilt for LSWR
1913 Rebuilt without roof
National Rail – UK railway stations
* Annual estimated passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Exeter St Davids from Office of Rail and Road statistics. Methodology may vary year on year.
UK Railways portal

Exeter St Davids is the principal railway station serving the city of Exeter in Devon, England. It is 193 miles 72 chains (312.1 km) from London Paddington on the line through Bristol which continues to Plymouth and Penzance. It is also served by an alternative route to London Waterloo via Salisbury and branch lines to Exmouth and Barnstaple.

The station opened in 1844 as the terminus of the Bristol and Exeter Railway. It is currently managed by Great Western Railway and is served by trains operated by Great Western Railway, South West Trains and CrossCountry.


Exeter in 1844. A print by William Spreat showing St Davids in 1844.

The station was opened on 1 May 1844 by the Bristol and Exeter Railway (B&ER).[1] The station was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and was one of his single-sided stations which meant that the two platforms were both on the east side of the line. This was the side nearer the town and so very convenient for passengers travelling into Exeter but did mean that a lot of trains had to cross in front of others.

This was not too much of a problem while the station was at the end of the line, but on 30 May 1846 the South Devon Railway (SDR) opened a line westwards towards Plymouth.[2] A carriage shed was built for the SDR at the south end of the B&ER platform but the goods sheds and locomotive sheds for both companies were to the west, between the station and the River Exe. The SDR was designed to be worked by atmospheric power and an engine house was built on the banks of the river near the locomotive shed.[3] This was only used for its original purpose for about a year but was not demolished until many years later.

The next railway to arrive at St Davids was the Exeter and Crediton Railway on 12 May 1851, the junction of which was a little distance to the north of the station at Cowley Bridge Junction. This line was worked by the B&ER and trains were accommodated at the existing platforms. All these railways had been built to the 7 ft (2,134 mm) broad gauge, but on 1 February 1862 the 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) gauge London and South Western Railway (LSWR) brought a line into the station from their own central station in Queen Street. The LSWR owned the Exeter and Crediton Railway and started to work the line for itself, although the broad gauge was retained for the B&ER to work goods trains to Crediton.[1]

The transfer shed built in the 1860s

With two gauges and four companies using the single-sided station, it was in need of remodelling. A new double-sided platform opened on the site west side of the line and the original up platform at the northern end was closed. The original platforms had all had individual train sheds covering the tracks, and the opportunity was taken to replace these with one large train shed across all the main tracks and platforms. North of the station was a level crossing and just beyond this an additional goods shed was constructed. Unlike the earlier ones it was solely for transferring goods between the trains of the two different gauges. All of these buildings were designed by the Francis Fox, the B&ER engineer, and Henry Lloyd[4] and the work was completed in 1864.

The B&ER was amalgamated with the Great Western Railway on 1 January 1876 and the SDR did the same thing exactly one month later. The main line from Bristol was rebuilt with mixed gauge track that allowed broad gauge trains to run through from London Paddington railway station to Penzance, while at the same time offering a standard gauge track for local trains from Bristol Temple Meads; the new line being ready by 1 March 1876.

The train shed was removed in 1912-13 and the platforms extended northwards towards the level crossing.[5] A second island platform was provided on the west side and this entailed the goods sheds being narrowed from two tracks to one at their southern end. The middle island platform was mainly used for LSWR trains while down GWR services used the original main platform and the new island platforms. Before Southern Region services to Plymouth were abandoned, passengers could see Plymouth-bound services of the Western Region and Southern Region leaving St Davids in opposite directions. The station has remained largely in this form since, but resignalling in the 1985 saw the ex-LSWR services moved to the main platform so that down ex-GWR line services did not have to cross their path at the south end of the station. A through line between platforms 1 and 3 was removed at the same time. The new signal box was built on the site of the old atmospheric engine house and replaced three older signal boxes.

There are still many remains of the earlier stations to be seen. The main façade dates from 1864 and the Great Western Hotel dates from the earliest days, as does the southern section of platform 1. The goods shed opposite platform 6 shows the angle where the southern end was cut back in 1912, and at the northern end part of the original goods shed still stands beneath later extensions. The 1864 transfer shed can still be seen beside the line beyond Red Cow Crossing.


Exeter St Davids

Bristol to Exeter line
to London
Tarka Line
to Barnstaple
Riverside Goods
Red Cow Crossing
Exeter St Davids
Exeter TMD
to Exeter Central
Exeter to Plymouth line
to Penzance
Track layout in 2009
The view from Red Cow level crossing. The yellow Network Rail train is in platform 2; platforms 3 is straight ahead; the old goods shed is at the right.

The station entrance is on the east side of the line, facing the city centre which is about a 15 minutes walk distant. The routes to the centre and Exeter University are well signposted. There are also frequent bus services to the centre from outside the station and trains to Exmouth and London Waterloo call at Exeter Central railway station.

The main buffet and bookshop are both outside the ticket gates. There are also a number of local shops outside the station along with the Great Western Hotel and a Premier Inn hotel. There is a smaller buffet on platforms 5 & 6.[6]

The entrance is on platform 1, which is mainly used for trains to and from Exeter Central and Barnstaple. It is signalled so that two trains can be on the platform simultaneously, with the south end marked as platform 1A. At the north end is platform 2, a separate bay platform that is used from time to time for trains to and from the north mainly Bristol and Barnstaple that start or terminate at St Davids.

The main passenger footbridge has many paintings resembling frescoes and depicting romantic versions of rail travel. A second bridge fitted with lifts provides disabled access. When the lifts are out of action a member of station staff escorts people across a foot crossing at track level towards the south of the station.

The middle pair of platforms is numbered 3 & 4. The former is used by similar trains to platform 1, but platforms 4-6 do not have access to the lines from Exeter Central. Instead platform 4 is the main platform for inter-city trains to Paignton, Plymouth and Penzance. Trains from both platforms 1 and 3 can also reach this route so trains from Exmouth that continue westwards will reverse in one of these platforms.

The train depot opposite platform 6

The third platform block sees northbound trains to London Paddington and the North use platform 5. Various local services use platform 6 as do trains from Paddington or the North that terminate at Exeter then return northwards.

Beyond platform six is the Exeter panel signal box that controls not just St Davids but also the main line north through to Taunton & Cogload Junction and southwards to Totnes & Torquay as well the branches out to Exmouth Junction and Crediton. Next to this is Exeter TMD where DMU sets used on local services are fuelled. A goods shed is situated beyond Red Cow Crossing at the north end of the platforms, and finally beyond that is Riverside Yard which still sees goods traffic. Cowley Bridge Junction is about a mile away at the far end of Riverside Yard, but the junction for the Exeter Central line is right by the south end of the platforms. This line curves eastwards and climbs steeply to cross a small viaduct before entering a tunnel beneath the city; the main line instead stays on the level and crosses both the River Exe and the city’s flood defence channel before curving gently out of sight.

Passenger volume

St Davids is the second busiest station in Devon, handling around 200,000 fewer passengers each year than Plymouth. Comparing the year from April 2007 to that which started in April 2002, passenger numbers increased by 30%.[7]


The statistics cover twelve month periods that start in April.


First Great Western services to and from London Paddington

There are two direct routes from St Davids to London. The main line is generally considered to be the Great Western Railway service over the Bristol to Exeter line to London Paddington via Reading,[8] but there is also a service operated by South West Trains on their West of England Main Line to London Waterloo via Salisbury and Basingstoke.[9] Because of this the station is one of the few that have trains to London departing in opposite directions at either end of the station those to Paddington leave northwards while those to Waterloo head south but turn eastwards just outside the station. Further long-distance services are operated by CrossCountry to Birmingham New Street, Manchester Piccadilly, Sheffield, Leeds, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.[10]

Three local routes converge at St Davids the Avocet Line from Exmouth,[11] the Tarka Line from Barnstaple,[11] and the Riviera Line from Paignton.[8] Trains from Exmouth generally continue to either Barnstaple or Paignton to provide a cross-Exeter service. A few GWR services also run between Paignton/Plymouth and Bristol or Cardiff Central, mainly in the morning & late evening.

In addition to this core daytime pattern there are a number of other, less frequent, services including the Night Riviera sleeping car service from London Paddington to Penzance. On summer Sundays services are operated over the Tarka Line and then on an otherwise goods-only line to Okehampton on the Dartmoor Railway, and the steam hauled "Torbay Express" calls on its weekly run to Paignton and Kingswear on the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway.

Variety of trains - First Great Western, CrossCountry and South West Trains
Preceding station National Rail Following station
Tiverton Parkway   CrossCountry
Scotland and North to South West
Tiverton Parkway   Great Western Railway
Bristol to Exeter line
  Exeter St Thomas
Exeter Central   Great Western Railway
Exmouth to Paignton
  Exeter St Thomas
  Great Western Railway
Exmouth to Barnstaple
  Newton St Cyres
Exeter Central   Great Western Railway
Exeter to Okehampton
Summer Sundays only
Taunton   Great Western Railway
Night Riviera
  Newton Abbot
Exeter Central   South West Trains
London Waterloo to Exeter St Davids

Bus services

There are several bus services from the station operated by Stagecoach South West including route H to Exeter University or High Street and Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital. The 56 service goes to the Met Office or Exeter Airport other services include the 5A, 5B, 6,6A and the 55A.


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Exeter St Davids.
  1. 1 2 MacDermot, E T (1931). History of the Great Western Railway, volume II 1863-1921. London: Great Western Railway.
  2. Gregory, R H (1982). The South Devon Railway. Salisbury: Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-286-2.
  3. Kay, Peter (1991). Exeter - Newton Abbot: A Railway History. Sheffield: Platform 5 Publishing. ISBN 1-872524-42-7.
  4. Pevsner, Nikolaus; Cherry, Bridget (1991). The Buildings of England. Devon. Yale University Press. p. 409. ISBN 9780300095968.
  5. Beck, Keith; Copsey, John (1990). The Great Western in South Devon. Didcot: Wild Swan Publication. ISBN 0-906867-90-8.
  6. Oakley, Mike (2007). Devon Railway Stations. Wimborne Minster: The Dovecote Press. ISBN 978-1-904349-55-6.
  7. "Station Usage". Rail Statistics. Office of Rail Regulation. Retrieved 2009-03-13.
  8. 1 2 "National Rail Timetable 135 (May 2016)" (PDF). Network Rail.
  9. "National Rail Timetable 160 (May 2016)" (PDF). Network Rail.
  10. "National Rail Timetable 51 (May 2016)" (PDF). Network Rail.
  11. 1 2 "National Rail Timetable 136 (May 2016)" (PDF). Network Rail.
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