Devon railway line set to reopen for first time in 50 years

Devon railway line set to reopen for first time in 50 years

Published 19 March 2021 | Average read time
5 min read
Stories Industry-leading Living by the railway

Communities in Devon will soon benefit from the reopening of the railway between Okehampton and Exeter as part of the Government’s ‘Restoring your Railway’ initiative.

Following confirmation of government funding, we expect services to restart later this year on the 14-mile stretch of railway – known as the Dartmoor Line.

You’ll be able to catch a train on this line for the first time in almost 50 years and enjoy a regular, daily service between Okehampton and Exeter. Train operator Great Western Railway (GWR) expects to introduce the passenger service by the end of this year with trains running every two hours, seven day a week.

Watch this video to find out more:

Better connections

The move will greatly improve connectivity for people living between Okehampton and Exeter and the surrounding areas. Journey times on the train are estimated to be about 30% quicker than by car or bus. This will also help contribute towards reducing traffic congestion and associated pollution on the busy A30.

The railway will also provide better access to and from the wider mid and west Devon and north Cornwall areas, and will greatly support school and college pupils and people who live in or near Okehampton, but who need to travel to Exeter to study or work.

It’s the latest effort by the rail industry to restore connections lost decades ago. We’re currently working as part of the East West Rail Alliance to build a railway for East West Railway Company that will give you a rail service between Oxford and Cambridge for the first time since the 1960s.

Last year we opened the brand-new Horden railway station near the small town of Peterlee in in County Durham after almost 60 years of no immediate rail links for communities in the area.

In 2015, we opened the Borders Railway and reconnected communities with Scotland’s capital by rail for the first time since 1969.

Millions of pounds into the area

The approach to Okehampton station visitor centre with welcome sign in the foreground, daytime

Economically, we expect the reopening of the railway to attract investment to Okehampton and surrounding areas as well as more visitors.

The development of the railway and Okehampton station as a transport hub will also help boost tourism to the area by providing greater access to the town and nearby attractions including Dartmoor National Park – which is celebrating its 70th anniversary – and the Granite Way cycle route.

It has the potential to bring millions of pounds into the local area.

We’ve worked with GWR since the beginning of 2020 to carry out detailed investigations to understand what infrastructure and railway control system improvements are needed to bring the Dartmoor Line up to the required standards to enable GWR to operate trains safely.

Now that we have the green light, our engineers will start work immediately. This will include drainage, fencing and earthworks. We’ll also:

  • lay more than 11 miles of track
  • replace 24,000 concrete sleepers
  • install almost 29,000 tonnes of ballast – the stones on the track bed – before running test trains on the track ahead of fully reopening the railway to you.

Okehampton station upgrade

As part of these upgrades, we’re improving Okehampton railway station. You’ll see:

  • a fully accessible station building and platform
  • a new ticket vending machine
  • a Help Point
  • a public address system
  • information screens
  • CCTV
  • free WiFi
  • a pay and display car park with disabled parking bays.
A green bench beneath the Okehampton sign on the platform at Okehampton railway station, daytime

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, 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.”

Christian Irwin, industry programme director at Network rail, said: “We’re thrilled to have received funding confirmation from the Government to support us in reopening the Dartmoor Line.

“We’re excited by the numerous benefits the reopening of this railway will bring to Okehampton and surrounding areas, and we are now fully focussed on undertaking the necessary engineering work required to prepare this line for the return of regular passenger services.

“We’re grateful to our partners and supporters who are helping make this a realisation and would like to thank local residents living near to the railway for their patience whilst we ramp up our activity to get the track ready.”

Mark Hopwood, managing director of GWR, said: “We are pleased that the case we made to government for this important local line has been so compelling that this is one of the first of the Government’s Restoring Your Railway re-opening projects to get the green light. This is great news for communities surrounding Okehampton wanting to be re-connected to the national network.

“Returning regular, daily services to this line has been a long-held ambition of ours and was the most sought-after additional routes in our most recent franchise consultation. We’ve already done a great deal of work with Network Rail and local partners, including Devon County Council, to support those aspirations, and have well-developed plans to have trains running on the Dartmoor Line again.”

Read more:

Restoring Your Railway

People and the railway: reconnecting Scotland

Horden – how we built a railway station in six months

East West Rail Project – Trackside Tara and 300 tonnes of concrete

From plot to platform – how fast can we build a railway station?

Putting passengers first

Improving our stations