Scheduled passenger services to Okehampton resume today for the first time in nearly 50 years

Today (Saturday 20 November 2021) marks the return of regular rail services on the Dartmoor line between Exeter and Okehampton, for the first time in nearly half a century.

The first scheduled passenger service to Okehampton since 1972 will arrive at 7:10 am (leaving Exeter St Davids at 6:32 am), with the first train leaving Okehampton at 7:30 am The two-hour services , seven days a week, will be operated by Great Western Railway (GWR) with journey times between Okehampton and Exeter, including a stop at Crediton, taking around 40 minutes.

The Dartmoor Line – which received £ 40.5million in government funding in March – is the first old line to reopen as part of the government’s program to restore your railway.

Network Rail, GWR and the Department of Transport (DfT) alongside project partners Devon County Council, Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership and Dartmoor Railway Association (DRA) have collaborated to reopen this line ahead of schedule and under budget.

Benefiting from the application of the Rail Project SPEED approaches, this 14-mile stretch of a formerly laid-back freight railway was transformed in just nine months and was completed at over £ 10million below budget.

To make the restoration possible, Network Rail’s engineering team worked tirelessly to deliver an extensive work program to physically reopen the line in just nine months, including laying 11 miles of new track and installing 24,000 concrete sleepers and 29,000 tonnes of ballast in a record breaking period of 20 days.

Repairs were also carried out on 21 structures along the route, including four bridges. Other infrastructure works included improving level crossings and installing rail communication equipment. Vegetation clearing, earthworks and drainage works and fencing have also been completed and other infrastructure works will continue to increase the speed of the line to allow hourly service in 2022.

The route connects Exeter St Davids, Crediton and Okehampton, providing visitors with a launching pad to explore Dartmoor and regional links for local commuters. About half of the services, including peak hours, will also continue to Exeter Central. Passengers traveling between Crediton and Exeter will also benefit from an increase in the frequency of the service.

The reopening of the road is expected to boost local businesses, the tourism sector and provide better access to education and work for thousands of people who live locally.

Facilities at Okehampton Station include new information screens, an assistance point, chip card validation points, ATMs and a waiting room. Further work will be carried out over the winter, including further work on the station buildings to allow for the catering of the cafe and other facilities.

Michelle Handforth, Regional Managing Director for Wales and West of Network Rail, said: “I am delighted that today marks the return of long-awaited scheduled passenger services between Exeter and Okehampton.

“This is something the local community and our partners have wanted for a very long time and I am delighted with the close collaboration of the project partners, the Dartmoor line opens ahead of schedule and under budget.

“I want to pay tribute to our project team and engineers whose commitment and hard work brought us here today as we celebrate the return of scheduled passenger services for the first time in nearly 50 years. “

Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of GWR, said: “This has been a key aspiration for the community and the rail industry for some time and today is an important day for all who have been involved.

“The support and advocacy of local activists over the years has provided a fantastic new service to customers, which we hope will grow more and more. “

Councilor Andrea Davis, member of the Devon County Council climate change, environment and transport cabinet, said: Helped achieve. It is wonderful to see the Dartmoor Line restored, and to be the first railway line to reopen as part of the government program to restore your railway is a magnificent achievement in itself.

“Devon County Council has kept the summer Sunday service on the line since 1997 and in doing so has demonstrated what can be achieved. At the very least, it kept hope that we could see a return to regular services between Okehampton and Exeter. Many thanks and well done to all community members and partner organizations who were instrumental in relaunching the Dartmoor line, and Network Rail and GWR have worked hard to ensure it opens this year. “

Mel Stride, MP for Central Devon, said: ‘I am proud that our constituency of Central Devon is the first in the UK to have a service, lost due to rail cuts in the 1960s and 1970s, restored by the government. I have enjoyed working closely with OkeRail for many years to help achieve this – the many years of campaigning have been worth it.

“The new line will provide thousands of my constituents who are within an hour of their nearest station with valuable service at their doorstep and give a huge boost to the local economy as we bounce back from Covid- 19. Importantly, it will also help reduce carbon emissions by removing cars from the A30. I can’t wait to book my first ticket!

Richard Burningham, director of the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, said: “What day will be the reopening of this line – the day when Okehampton fully joins the national rail network. All of a sudden, much of West Devon and North and East Cornwall will be 30 miles closer to the railway line than it is today. It is going to make a big, very positive difference in the lives of many people.

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