by Keri Allan
23 Nov 2021
Regular train services resumed on the Dartmoor Line between Exeter and Okehampton this past weekend after a 50-year hiatus.
The first train arrived in Okehampton from Exeter St David’s at 7.10am on 20 November and GWR will now operate a daily two-hourly service between the two – via Crediton.
The passenger service had been withdrawn by the government in 1972, but after more than a decade of campaigning has returned as part of the UK government’s ‘Restoring Your Railway’ programme.
As reported last month, the Dartmoor Line is the first to reopen as part of the programme, which provided 40.5 million GBP (48.27m euros | 54.32m USD) in funding.
The restoration work necessary to resume the service took a total of nine months to complete and came in 10m GBP (11.92m euros | 13.41m USD) under budget.
The project was made possible through the collaboration of Network Rail, GWR, the Department for Transport (DfT) Devon County Council, Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership and Dartmoor Railway Association (DRA).
In nine months, engineers laid 11 miles of new track, installed 24,000 concrete sleepers and 29,000 tonnes of ballast.
Repairs were also made to over structures on the route including four bridges, while improvements had to be made to level crossings and new communications equipment installed.
This was in addition to work on vegetation clearance, earth and drainage and fencing.
“I'm delighted to mark the return of much anticipated regular passenger services between Exeter and Okehampton.
“This is something that the local community and our partners have wanted for a very long time and I am thrilled through the close working of the project partners, the Dartmoor Line is opening ahead of schedule and under budget.
“I would like to pay tribute to our project team and engineers whose commitment and hard work has got us here today as we celebrate the return of regular passenger services for the first time in nearly 50 years.”
Infrastructure work continues in order to increase the line speed.
This will enable the service to become hourly as of next year.
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The UK rail industry lags behind that of aviation, roads and energy when it comes to maintenance of infrastructure and key assets.
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