NEWS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Okehampton to Exeter "Dartmoor Line" passenger rail service reinstatement confirmed

£40 million Department for Transport "Restoring your Railway" funding to enable trains every two hours by end of this year, with plans to increase to hourly service during 2022. Stakeholders combine to get South West infrastructure needs onto Whitehall agenda.

DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL   EXETER ST. DAVID'S   PENINSULA TRANSPORT   PUBLIC TRANSPORT  

The Department for Transport has confirmed that regular passenger rail services will be reinstated on the Okehampton to Exeter line at the end of this year.

The new service will initially run every two hours, and is expected to increase to hourly towards the end of 2022, subject to further upgrades. Eight 130-seat trains will run each day in either direction between 7am and 10pm. Journey time from Okehampton to Exeter will be 40 minutes.

Regular passenger services on the newly-branded Dartmoor Line were withdrawn in June 1972. From 1972 the line was used to transport railway ballast from Meldon Quarry and for occasional freight traffic and charter trains. There has been a Sunday service on the line during the summer since 1997.

Funding for the £40 million reinstatement was announced in the budget on 3 March. The money will be used to purchase the line from its current owner and for upgrade and maintenance works.

Train at Okehampton Station in 2015 Train at Okehampton Station in 2015. Photo: Richard Curnow under Creative Commons license.

It will be the first project delivered under the Department for Transport Restoring Your Railway scheme which aims to reinstate some of the services and stations that were axed following the 1963 Reshaping of British Railways report. Its author, British Railways chairman Richard Beeching, called for the closure of most of the network in Devon and north east Cornwall.

Reinstatement works will involve drainage, fencing and bridge repairs, the replacement of 24,000 concrete sleepers and the installation of 29,000 tonnes of ballast. A total of eleven miles of track will be replaced.

Improvements will also be made to Okehampton station, which will not be staffed. These include the installation of a ticket vending machine, help point, public address system, information screens and CCTV. The station car park will have dedicated disabled bays and the station building and platform will be fully accessible.

All services will run to Exeter St. David’s with around half the weekday services extending to Exeter Central. Weekend services will be extended to Exeter Central where possible at a later date. All trains will also stop at Crediton and some services will stop at Newton St Cyres.

The new service will mark the 150th anniversary of the railway arriving in Okehampton in 1871. Trains will not run on the Dartmoor Line during reinstatement works.

Southern Region timetable map 1962

Southern Region timetable map 1962.
Image © Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership and Dartmoor Line project partners.

In 1994, as part of the privatisation of British Rail, the line from Okehampton to Coleford Junction (where it meets the Exeter to Barnstaple Tarka Line), Meldon Quarry and Okehampton station were all sold to an aggregates company.

The station, which had fallen into disrepair since the 1972 passenger services withdrawal, was sold on to Devon County Council and restoration began.

Dartmoor Railway, a Community Interest Company, was founded in 1997 to operate the line as a heritage service which included summer excursions and Christmas special railway rides.

Great Western Railway also ran a passenger service on summer Sundays with financial support from Devon County Council via the Sunday Rover ticket.

The ticket was withdrawn in 2015 but a similar combined bus and train offer was reintroduced in 2019. However services on the line were withdrawn in December 2019 and Dartmoor Railway CIC entered administration in February last year.

Okehampton station in 1997 Okehampton station in 1997. Photo © Devon County Council.

Meanwhile the OkeRail Forum and Community Interest Company was formed in 2014 to campaign for the restoration of passenger services on the line, and Central Devon MP Mel Stride facilitated numerous meetings with government ministers, local councillors, campaigners and representatives from Great Western Railways and Network Rail.

The combined efforts of stakeholders led to Chris Grayling, then Secretary of State for Transport, asking Great Western Railways to draw up a reopening plan in January 2018.

Preliminary work started on the ground in 2020, when Network Rail and Great Western Railway began assessing the infrastructure and control system improvements necessary to bring the line up to the required safety standards.

The plan to reopen the line finally appeared in the National Infrastructure Strategy alongside the Chancellor’s Autumn Spending Review in November last year.

Okehamption station platform in 2006 Okehamption station platform in 2006. Photo: Graham Tait under Creative Commons license.

The aspiration to reopen the line further westwards remains. The vision is to connect Exeter to Plymouth by rail without travelling via Dawlish, where parts of the sea wall were breached in 2014 during a storm, undermining the track and forcing its closure for two months.

Peninsula Rail Task Force, which was formed in 2013 following a series of severe weather events, published a South West Peninsula strategic rail blueprint to address this and other regional rail infrastructure issues in 2016.

It proposed long term investment in south west transport resilience to address the region’s vulnerability to increasing numbers of climate change-related severe weather incidents.


 is editor of Exeter Observer and a director of its publisher Exeter Observer Limited.

 is membership co-ordinator and community & culture editor of Exeter Observer and a director of its publisher Exeter Observer Limited.

Recent stories
Exeter City Council government borrowing 2014-2022 bar chart

Council borrowing nearly triples in three years as property acquisitions and development loans mount

Extinction Rebellion UK tour bus outside Exeter City Council's Paris Street offices

World car free day ignored in Exeter as Extinction Rebellion challenges council climate inaction

The Gorge co-living block classic studio room floorplan

First Exeter "co-living" block comes on stream with rooms at £946pcm+

Summerland Street co-living block redevelopment site

Council paves way for 186-bed "co-living" block in Summerland Street

Exeter City Futures Exeter Development Fund presentation slide

Exeter Development Fund: rent extraction, unaffordable housing and gentrification, but not net zero


Help power our public interest journalism

More News
The Gorge co-living block classic studio room floorplan

PLANNING & PLACE

First Exeter "co-living" block comes on stream with rooms at £946pcm+

Even "affordable" rooms in six storey 133-unit Gladstone Road block would leave many local key workers living below minimum income threshold.

Summerland Street co-living block redevelopment site

PLANNING & PLACE

Council paves way for 186-bed "co-living" block in Summerland Street

Freedom of information request reveals intended scale of development after executive committee takes decision behind closed doors.

Exeter Article 4 Direction area July 2011 map

PLANNING & PLACE

St. James HMO conversion refusal overturned at appeal

Council failed to provide sufficient evidence to support 2012 planning policy introduced to limit impact of student occupation of residential housing stock.

All News
Analysis
Exeter City Council government borrowing 2014-2022 bar chart

ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Council borrowing nearly triples in three years as property acquisitions and development loans mount

Freedom of information request reveals five paragraph "outline business plan" for £55 million Guildhall shopping centre investment.

Stagecoach app showing Exeter bus service delays and cancellations

TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Bus back better? Exeter services expected to remain unfit for purpose without needed changes

Government underfunding and bus sector challenges limit scope for improvement but county council failure to upgrade routes and policy ambitions plus high housing costs make Exeter difficulties acute, undermining net zero aspirations.

Exeter City Futures website - vision & mission summary

CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

University emissions study confirms Net Zero Exeter plan redundancy

Council retains Exeter City Futures' services despite history of delivery failures and lack of capacity to support defined decarbonisation targets.

All Analysis
Comment
Extinction Rebellion UK tour bus outside Exeter City Council's Paris Street offices

CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

World car free day ignored in Exeter as Extinction Rebellion challenges council climate inaction

Protestors gathered outside council offices as CEO Karime Hassan posed for photo with construction company development manager at Princesshay promotion.

Exeter City Futures Exeter Development Fund presentation slide

PLANNING & PLACE

Exeter Development Fund: rent extraction, unaffordable housing and gentrification, but not net zero

Exeter City Futures' private debt-driven Liveable Exeter property development financing scheme is under fire from councillors who say it is based on insufficiently-evidenced assumptions and won't meet Exeter's housing needs.

E3 cycle route Chard Road modal filter

TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Exeter cycling & walking strategy five years late and counting

County council soft-pedalling on infrastructure plan which city council says will not form part of new Exeter Local Plan despite Department for Transport guidance.

All Comment
The Exeter Digest

Exeter Digest #16: Co-living costs - Summerland Street tower - Car free day ignored

Our essential newsletter also includes a selection of community and culture events and signposts our briefing on the new Exeter Local Plan.

Exeter Digest #15: Bus back better? - Net zero redundancy - Development fund under fire

Our bumper holiday newsletter also covers a St. James' HMO appeal, planning enforcement changes, scope 3 emissions failure, cycling and walking strategy delays and property development promotion as community planning participation.

Exeter Digest #14: Exeter beset - Alphington impacts - Magdalen Road - Community involvement?

Our essential newsletter also covers continuing Exeter Development Fund scrutiny, missing meetings minutes from Exeter City Futures and Devon Climate Emergency Response Group, Liveable Exeter confusion and local design code reforms.

All Exeter Digest
On the agenda
New Exeter Local Plan

New Exeter local plan draft consultation

A consultation on the outline draft version of the new Exeter local plan, which will guide development in the city until 2040, is currently taking place.

All topics

ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY   AIR QUALITY AIR QUALITY AIR QUALITY   COP26 COP26 COP26   COVID-19 COVID-19 COVID-19   CITYPOINT CITYPOINT CITYPOINT   CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE   CLIMATE CRISIS CLIMATE CRISIS CLIMATE CRISIS   CO-LIVING CO-LIVING CO-LIVING   CONGESTION CONGESTION CONGESTION   COUNCIL TAX COUNCIL TAX COUNCIL TAX   CROWN ESTATE CROWN ESTATE CROWN ESTATE   CYCLING & WALKING CYCLING & WALKING CYCLING & WALKING   DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT   DEVON CARBON PLAN DEVON CARBON PLAN DEVON CARBON PLAN   DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL   DEVON PENSION FUND DEVON PENSION FUND DEVON PENSION FUND   EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL   EXETER AIRPORT EXETER AIRPORT EXETER AIRPORT   EXETER CATHEDRAL EXETER CATHEDRAL EXETER CATHEDRAL   EXETER CITY COUNCIL EXETER CITY COUNCIL EXETER CITY COUNCIL   EXETER CITY FUTURES EXETER CITY FUTURES EXETER CITY FUTURES   EXETER CITY LIVING EXETER CITY LIVING EXETER CITY LIVING   EXETER COLLEGE EXETER COLLEGE EXETER COLLEGE   EXETER CULTURE EXETER CULTURE EXETER CULTURE   EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND   EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION   EXETER LIVE BETTER EXETER LIVE BETTER EXETER LIVE BETTER   EXETER LOCAL PLAN EXETER LOCAL PLAN EXETER LOCAL PLAN   EXETER PHOENIX EXETER PHOENIX EXETER PHOENIX   EXETER PRIDE EXETER PRIDE EXETER PRIDE   EXETER SCIENCE PARK EXETER SCIENCE PARK EXETER SCIENCE PARK   EXETER ST. DAVID'S EXETER ST. DAVID'S EXETER ST. DAVID'S   EXETER TRANSPORT STRATEGY EXETER TRANSPORT STRATEGY EXETER TRANSPORT STRATEGY   EXETER CITY CENTRE EXETER CITY CENTRE EXETER CITY CENTRE   FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FREEDOM OF INFORMATION   FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER   GENERAL ELECTIONS GENERAL ELECTIONS GENERAL ELECTIONS   GUILDHALL GUILDHALL GUILDHALL   HARLEQUINS HARLEQUINS HARLEQUINS   HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP   HOUSING CRISIS HOUSING CRISIS HOUSING CRISIS   LGBTQIA+ LGBTQIA+ LGBTQIA+   LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD   LIVEABLE EXETER LIVEABLE EXETER LIVEABLE EXETER   LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY   LOCAL ELECTIONS LOCAL ELECTIONS LOCAL ELECTIONS   MAKETANK MAKETANK MAKETANK   MARSH BARTON MARSH BARTON MARSH BARTON   MET OFFICE MET OFFICE MET OFFICE   MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL   NET ZERO EXETER NET ZERO EXETER NET ZERO EXETER   NORTHERNHAY GARDENS NORTHERNHAY GARDENS NORTHERNHAY GARDENS   OXYGEN HOUSE OXYGEN HOUSE OXYGEN HOUSE   PARIS STREET PARIS STREET PARIS STREET   PARKING PARKING PARKING   PENINSULA TRANSPORT PENINSULA TRANSPORT PENINSULA TRANSPORT   PLANNING POLICY PLANNING POLICY PLANNING POLICY   PRINCESSHAY PRINCESSHAY PRINCESSHAY   PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT   PUBLIC CONSULTATION PUBLIC CONSULTATION PUBLIC CONSULTATION   PUBLIC HEALTH PUBLIC HEALTH PUBLIC HEALTH   PUBLIC REALM PUBLIC REALM PUBLIC REALM   PUBLIC TRANSPORT PUBLIC TRANSPORT PUBLIC TRANSPORT   RAMM RAMM RAMM   REFUSE & RECYCLING REFUSE & RECYCLING REFUSE & RECYCLING   RETROFIT RETROFIT RETROFIT   RIVERSIDE VALLEY PARK RIVERSIDE VALLEY PARK RIVERSIDE VALLEY PARK   ROYAL DEVON & EXETER NHS TRUST ROYAL DEVON & EXETER NHS TRUST ROYAL DEVON & EXETER NHS TRUST   SIDWELL STREET SIDWELL STREET SIDWELL STREET   SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION   SOUTH WEST WATER SOUTH WEST WATER SOUTH WEST WATER   SOUTHERNHAY SOUTHERNHAY SOUTHERNHAY   SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT   ST. SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE ST. SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE ST. SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE   ST. SIDWELL'S POINT ST. SIDWELL'S POINT ST. SIDWELL'S POINT   STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST   STUDENT ACCOMMODATION STUDENT ACCOMMODATION STUDENT ACCOMMODATION   TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL   UNIVERSITY OF EXETER UNIVERSITY OF EXETER UNIVERSITY OF EXETER  

More stories