For the first time in nearly 50 years, regular passenger services will run on the Dartmoor Line, connecting Okehampton to Exeter.
Services will launch on November 20, marking 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 Okehampto. 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.
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.”
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 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.”
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 9 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 4 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.