FUNDING worth £40.5 million has been confirmed to restore passenger services in Devon between Exeter St David’s and Okehampton.
Part of the line as far as Crediton has never lost its passenger services and is used by Barnstaple trains, but the cash injection from the Department for Transport means that the remaining 22.5km between Crediton and Okehampton can be upgraded so that trains can start running every two hours later this year.
Okehampton has been served by special trains on summer Sundays for some time but the funding, which had been signalled in the Budget but was awaiting confirmation, means that daily services can return to Okehampton for the first time since June 1972.
British Rail withdrew the service almost a decade after the first Beeching report had been published, which did not recommend the closure.
Network Rail said its engineers will now start work immediately on improving drainage, fencing and earthworks. They will also relay almost 18km of track, replacing 24,000 concrete sleepers and installing nearly 29,000 tonnes of ballast.
GWR managing director Mark Hopwood said: ‘We are pleased that the case we made to government for this important local line has been so compelling that this is one of the first of the Government’s Restoring Your Railway re-opening projects to get the green light.’
Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership manager Richard Burningham added: ‘Thanks to the Government and congratulations to all those whose hard work over, in some cases, many years has got us to today’s announcement. This year is the 150th anniversary of the railway first arriving in Okehampton.
‘Long closed, the Okehampton line will be only the third railway to open for regular passenger services in Devon and Cornwall in 100 years. All of us are going to be working hard to make it a huge success and I am very sure it will be.’