Reopening Dartmoor Line will be ‘great opportunity’ for the area

The reopening a railway line in Devon which has not had regular services for around 50 years will be a “great opportunity” for the county, a train operator has said.

The Dartmoor Line has been disused by commercial rail since the 1970s, shortly after the Beeching cuts which gutted the UK’s network by around a third.

Aside from a limited service run by as a heritage line during the summer, passenger trains have not used the track in decades.

However, the Government has begun to reverse the 5,000 miles worth of cut track – with the Okehampton to Exeter line being one of the first to restart.

The Government’s “restoring your railway” scheme hopes to have passenger trains back on the line by the end of the year.

You can stay up to date on the top news near you with DevonLive’s FREE newsletters – enter your email address at the top of the page.

Matt Barnes, from Great Western Railway, told the BBC: “This will provide access from across West Devon and North Cornwall to the existing line. It will be a great opportunity to be a gateway to the area.

“And for the community of Okehampton – it will give them access to jobs, education, and help college students.

“With a journey of 35 minutes to Exeter, and of course a two-hour journey to London, you could get to London in under three hours from Okehampton.”

Mr Barnes added that the line will be crucial to the rural areas for access to Exeter, which he called a “key centre” for the area.

Okehampton railway station
Okehampton railway station
(Image: Daniel Clark)

He said: “Access to Exeter College is really important. Also large numbers of people who work in the city.

“We’ve seen over the past year there’s a strong return of patronage, and it gives us confidence it will work.”

Okehampton will be an unmanned station, with far fewer than the 13-strong team which used to attend it while it was open.

However, despite changes, the station’s traditional look will stay in place.

As well as Exeter College, access to Dartmoor National Park is something the local community is excited about.

Rebecca Martin, visitor services manager of Dartmoor National Park said: “It’s just fantastic – it’s so pertinent on the 70th anniversary of us becoming a national park we’ll be more accessible than ever.

“A recent review highlighted the positive impact on wellbeing on access to green spaces.

“For us, this is so exciting.

“The amount of visitors that can access via the train, parking is a real issue and this is a green mode of transport – people can bring their bikes.”

Devon Live