Regular rail services linking Exeter to Okehampton to resume for first time in half century thanks to £40million scheme

Regular passenger train services are to run on the Dartmoor Line connecting Exeter to Okehampton for the first time in nearly half a century.

The £40million scheme will launch on Saturday, November 20, marking the first reopening under the Government’s Restoring Your Railway programme.

The Whitehall initiative is exploring ways to return old lines and stations to service.

And the resumed route connecting Exeter St Davids, Crediton and Okehampton aims to provide 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 line is expected to boost local businesses, the tourism sector, and provide greater access to education and work for thousands of people.

Department for Transport chiefs accelerated the reopening of the railway – delivering passenger services in only nine months from the original funding being approved.

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.

Network Rail engineers laid 11 miles of new track and installed 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.

Vegetation clearance, earth and drainage works and fencing are ongoing.

GWR managing director Mark Hopwood said: “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, added:

“We’re delighted that we’ve reopened this much needed railway line for passenger services in just nine months and ahead of schedule.”

Regular passenger services will run on the route for the first time since 1972.

The line has only been open during the summer since 1997.

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

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