Dartmoor rail service to return after almost 50 years thanks to £40.5m scheme

Report by Richard Lawrence

The railway line between Exeter and Okehampton is to open all year round for the first time in almost 50 years.

Regular services along the Dartmoor line were withdrawn in 1972 but the line itself was kept open to serve a quarry that provided ballast for railways in the region.

This platform will be back in regular use from November 20. Credit: ITV West Country

There have been Sunday services running during the summer but now the Department for Transport, Network Rail, and Great Western Railway (GWR) are working together to reopen the line to passengers all year round, thanks to £40.5 million of investment.

A two hourly service is to start later this year - with the possibility of an hourly service from 2022.

It is the first project to see services return under the Government's 'Restoring your Railway' scheme.

Work will continue after the line reopens to improve facilities at Okehampton Station. Credit: ITV West Country

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The return of all-year services to the picturesque Dartmoor Line for the first time in half a century is a milestone moment in our efforts to restore our railways.

“Reversing lost railway connections breathes new life into our high streets, drives tourism and investment in businesses and housing, and opens new opportunities for work and education.”

The Victorian station will now be refurbished to welcome back frequent services benefiting the local economy. 

Cllr Andrea Davis from Devon County Council said, "This is a fantastic start. 20 years ago nobody thought this was going to happen and here we are, this is happening, this year.

"We will be on a train from Okehampton at the end of the year."

More than 11 miles of track will have to be relaid and modern systems installed before trains can resume.

The quarry line will be upgraded ready to carry modern passenger trains. Credit: ITV West Country

The reopened railway should reduce congestion on Devon's roads - taking students to college in Exeter, tourists heading to Dartmoor, and reconnecting communities across the county.

Penny Mills from Devon CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) said, "I think we need to think about getting cars off the road. They're building more and more houses in Okehampton and surrounding and they tell us it's because Okehampton is considered a commuter town for Exeter but you can't get there unless you're in a car.

"More and more cars down the A30, so this would be a fantastic benefit."

Looking forward, the restoration of the line between Exeter and Okehampton could lead the way for other parts of the line towards Plymouth to be considered for reopening.

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