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Will Restoring the Dartmoor Line After 50 Years Enhance Connectivity in the South?

3 min

With the announcement of regular passenger services to run on the Dartmoor Line, for the first time in half a century, was made by the government yesterday, Quadrant Transport looks at the benefits this will pose in the south region.

For the first time in nearly 50 years, regular passenger services will run on the Dartmoor Line, connecting Okehampton to Exeter from 20 November.

The station marks 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.

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 the 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 station has taken just 9 months to become fully restored

Work undertaken by Network Rail included laying 17km of new track and installing 24,000 concrete sleepers and 29,000t of ballast.

It also included repairs 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.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Quadrant Transport: “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.

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.

There will be trains every two hours each way, seven days a week with a journey time of 40 minutes between Okehampton and Exeter

Trains previously ran during the summer as part of the Summer Sunday trains between Okehampton and Exeter. Now the service will run every two hours but will increase to hourly from May next year.

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.

Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s Western Route and Strategic Operations Director, told Quadrant Transport: “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.

Despite opening in November, 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.