Government restores the Dartmoor Line as services resume for first time in half a century from 20 November 2021
For the first time in nearly 50 years, regular passenger services will run on the Dartmoor Line, connecting Okehampton to Exeter. Services will launch on 20 November, marking the first reopening under the government's Restoring Your Railway programme which is exploring ways to return old lines and stations to service across the country.
Cllr Neil Jory, Leader of West Devon Borough Council said:"This is such fantastic news for West Devon. We have recently adopted our 20-year vision for the Borough and made a commitment to strengthen our visitor economy and work with our business and partners to support our towns. This is exactly the kind of progress that we hope to see and a good example of how partners working together can make things happen.
"Like the railway, many of the projects in our plan will require us to work effectively with partners. In this case by working effectively with Devon County Council, Network Rail, the Government and the local community - who have campaigned for this line to be reinstated for years - we are supporting our business community. It will also and enable residents and tourists to access one of our important market towns. Our next step is to secure funding for a new station at the Eastern end of town and to push this ambition forward we will continue to work in partnership."
Cllr Julie Yelland, West Devon Borough Council's Ward Member Okehampton South and a Member on the OkeRail group said:"I am absolutely delighted that this line has been reinstated, it will make such a difference for the people of Okehampton. With a two hourly service this will not only bring people to our town for shopping and leisure, but it will also make Okehampton an attractive place to visit, easily accessible for Dartmoor and for cycling. The rail line between Okehampton and Exeter will provide more options for those people who need to travel further afield, help to keep cars off the road and improve local air quality. Thank you to everyone who have been involved in lobbying for this line to be reinstated and worked so hard to make this happen, and ahead of schedule too."
NEWS RELEASE FROM DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
- the Dartmoor Line between Okehampton and Exeter will officially reopen for year-round services on 20 November 2021, ahead of schedule
- it is the first former line to open under the government's Restoring Your Railway manifesto commitment
- tickets will go on sale on 12 October 2021 for trains running every 2 hours, increasing to hourly from May 2022
- passengers travelling between Crediton and Exeter will also benefit from an increase in service frequency
The route will connect Exeter St Davids, Crediton and Okehampton providing a launchpad for visitors to explore Dartmoor and regional links for local commuters. Around half of services, including at peak times, will also carry on to Exeter Central. The reopening of the route is expected to boost local businesses and the tourism sector while providing greater access to education and work for thousands of people who live locally.
The Department for Transport (DfT) and its partners have accelerated the reopening of the railway, delivering passenger services in only 9 months from the original funding being approved to entry into service and saving money at the same time. As the government continues its overhaul of the railways following the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, more lines and stations will be reopened.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "The project, funded by over £40 million from DfT, is part of the wider campaign to reverse catastrophic cuts to the rail network primarily led by the Beeching axe.
"The work has been a successful collaboration between the DfT, Network Rail, GWR, Devon County Council, Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership and local campaigners and MPs."
Mark Hopwood, GWR Managing Director, said: "Working with our partners at Network Rail and in the community we have long campaigned for the reopening of this important local line and we are really looking forward to being able to start running passenger trains again.
"With the start of services now just over a month away, this announcement is great news for communities surrounding Okehampton who will once again be connected to the national network.
"We've been working hard with Network Rail and local partners, including Devon County Council, to help prepare the line and the station at Okehampton for reopening on 20 November and this work will continue after 20 November as we develop the station facilities.
"The project to reopen the line is already helping to bring social and economic benefits to the local area reinforces the positive impact the railway can have on the communities we serve."
Mike Gallop, Network Rail's Western Route and Strategic Operations Director, said: "We're delighted that we've reopened this much-needed railway line for passenger services in just 9 months and ahead of schedule.
"Our team has worked incredibly hard alongside our project partners GWR, Devon County Council, Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership and the local community to ensure this railway is ready to open.
"We can't wait to welcome passengers back to the Dartmoor Line after an absence of nearly 50 years, linking passengers to Exeter and services to the rest of the country."
Regular passenger services will run on the route for the first time since 1972 following years of campaigning by local supporters. Since 1997, the line has only been open during the summer.
To make this possible, Network Rail's team of engineers has worked tirelessly to deliver a huge programme of work to physically reopen the line in just 9 months. This included laying 11 miles of new track and installing 24,000 concrete sleepers and 29,000 tonnes of ballast in record time. Repairs have also been made to 21 structures along the route including 4 bridges and a range of works including vegetation clearance, earth and drainage works and fencing are ongoing in preparation for the return of regular services.