Dartmoor Line set to reopen ahead of schedule

Dartmoor Line trains will have free Wi-Fi, plug sockets at every seat and accessible toilet facilities

Dartmoor Line trains will have free Wi-Fi, plug sockets at every seat and accessible toilet facilities - Credit: Dartmoor Line

For the first time in almost 50 years, regular passenger services will run on the Dartmoor Line connecting Okehampton to Exeter.

Great Western Railway services will launch on Saturday, November 20, marking the first reopening under the Government’s plans to reverse the Beeching cuts.

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, the tourism sector, and provide 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 nine 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 re-opened.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “‘The project, funded by over £40million from the Department for Transport, 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 re-opening 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 November 20 and this work will continue after November 20 as we develop the station facilities.

“The project to re-open 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 nine 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 nine months, including 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 four 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.

More work will be carried out over the winter including further work on the station buildings to enable the restoration of the café and other facilities.