17 NOV 2021


Transport secretary Grant Shapps has dispatched the first passenger train to run on the Dartmoor line for over 50 years, as the line once again becomes part of the UK rail network for passengers.

The line links Okehampton to Exeter and will officially reopen to the public for regular year-round, all-week passenger services on 20 November. Since 1997, the line has only been open during some Sundays in summer after regular services were withdrawn in 1972. 

Now, with £40m government investment through the Restoring Your Railway programme, the Dartmoor line has been transformed from a mothballed former freight railway with occasional summer Sunday services to a full seven days per week passenger operation in just nine months since confirmation of funding, coming in more than £10m under budget.

The Restoring Your Railway fund was launched in January 2020 to reinstate axed local services and restore closed stations, many of which were cut following Dr Beeching’s report on ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’ in 1963.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “By restoring the Dartmoor Line we are undoing 50 years of damage, reconnecting a community and creating new opportunities for jobs, tourism, education and recreation. We have made it our mission to reverse cuts made in the Beeching era of the 1960s. The passion, nostalgia and enthusiasm for that ambition is clear right across the country.”

To make the restoration possible, Network Rail’s team of engineers worked tirelessly to deliver a huge programme of work to physically reopen the line in just nine months, including laying 11 miles of new track and installing 24,000 concrete sleepers and 29,000 tonnes of ballast in a record-breaking 20-day period.

Repairs have also been made to 21 structures along the route including four bridges. Other infrastructure work has included level crossing improvements and the installation of railway communications equipment. Vegetation clearance, earth and drainage works and fencing have also been completed and further infrastructure work will continue to take place to increase the line speed to enable an hourly service in 2022.

Michelle Handforth, Network Rail’s Wales & Western regional managing director, said: “I am so proud of our engineers whose hard work and dedication has resulted in this line reopening ahead of schedule and today enable the secretary of state, campaigners and supporters of the Dartmoor line to enjoy a first passenger journey. I would like to thank the local community, our partners and everyone who has supported us in reopening this railway line and I am excited to think that this Saturday, regular passenger services will resume for the first time in nearly 50 years.”

Mark Hopwood, GWR managing director, said: “This has been a key aspiration for the community and the rail industry for some time and today is a significant day for everyone who has been involved. I am delighted to have been able to invite the secretary of state, and leading community campaigners, to enjoy a first passenger journey on this restored line. The support and advocacy of the local campaigners over the years has helped deliver a fantastic new service for customers, which we hope will grow from strength to strength.”


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