GWR are working in partnership with Network Rail and Devon County Council to reopen the Dartmoor Line from Crediton to Okehampton before the end of 2021.
This is the flagship Department for Transport ‘Restoring your Railway’ initiative that will, for the first time in almost 50 years, provide a regular, daily passenger rail service between Okehampton and Exeter. The railway will also provide better access to and from the wider West Devon and North Cornwall areas.
The Dartmoor Line
GWR operated services will run between Exeter and Okehampton, initially providing a service every two hours, which will rise to an hourly service from summer 2022.
Exeter is a key hub for the wider region and the new rail service will provide access for education, work, shopping as well as other opportunities on offer in the city. Customers will also be able to connect at Exeter St Davids for trains to a host of destinations including London, Bristol, the North of England and Scotland.
Okehampton is a historic town situated on the northern flank of Dartmoor National Park. It also marks the start of The Granite Way, an 11-mile multi-use trail connecting Okehampton with Lydford.
The new service will open up sustainable access to various leisure opportunities in the town and surrounding areas.
For more details of the scheme, please visit the Dartmoor line website.
What you need to know:
What is the project about?
The Dartmoor Line is a railway running from Crediton to Okehampton and is set to re-open for daily passenger services to Exeter later in 2021 for the first time in nearly 50 years.
A working partnership of Network Rail, Great Western Railway and Devon County Council have been successful in their bid to the Department for Transport to secure the funding to purchase and upgrade the line, which will be the first to re-open under the Government's ‘Restoring your Railway’ initiative.
Since closure to regular passenger trains in 1972 and freight trains in 2008, the condition of the track has deteriorated and upgrade work will need to take place before the line can safely open to daily passenger trains once again. The working partnership is planning to bring the railway to Okehampton back into use by the end of 2021.
We are really pleased that the case made to government for this important line has been so compelling that it has been given the green light to proceed. Returning regular, daily services to this line has been a long-held ambition of GWR, Network Rail, Devon County Council and the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership for a number of years and this is great news for customers and for the local economy.
Why is the line reopening?
The reopening of the line has been long-campaigned for by local communities, stakeholders and the rail industry.
The Dartmoor Line will help extend the reach and social and economic benefits of the railway, further supporting the communities it serves. Exeter is an employment hub for people in the Okehampton area and although it is linked to Exeter by the A30, traffic levels on routes into the city can be extremely congested at peak-times. With trains taking just 40 minutes to travel from Okehampton into the heart of Exeter, the reopening of the railway will encourage commuters to leave their car at home, reducing congestion and promoting more sustainable journeys.
The reopening of the line will not just benefit Okehampton. Towns such as Bude, Hatherleigh, Holsworthy and Launceston will be brought much closer to the rail network, unlocking these areas to train travel and paving the way for greener journeys to and from the region.
If the line is in place, why is it taking so long to open the route?
A great deal of work by GWR, Network Rail and local partners, including Devon County Council, has already been done to support the aspirations to re-open the line. However, regular trains haven't operated between Crediton and Okehampton for many years and the condition of the track and structures along the route are not currently in a suitable state to allow for a regular, daily service to operate.
Network Rail will continue to work to complete essential improvements required to allow a routine service to start by the end of 2021. This will involve replacing old track, cutting back lineside vegetation, assessing structures and installing new railway communication masts.
After the regular, daily service has bedded in, work will continue towards increasing service levels to hourly. This is hoping to be achieved during 2022.
What will the train service look like from opening day?
Eight trains a day (one every two hours) will run in either direction between Exeter St Davids and Okehampton, seven days a week. The journey time between Okehampton and Exeter St Davids will be approximately 40 minutes.
On weekdays, four trains a day will stop additionally at Exeter Central, including the key peak-time commuter services. On weekends, all trains will start and terminate at Exeter St Davids, but it is planned that these will be extended through to Exeter Central from December 2021.
From summer 2022, the hope is to increase the train service to hourly, with more trains running as far as Exeter Central.
What trains will run on the Dartmoor Line?
Dartmoor Line trains will be operated using Class 150, 158 and Turbo units. Most trains will operate in 2-car formations, offering up to 130 seats per service and will be fully compliant with the latest modern accessibility standards.
Why is the line not being given an hourly train service from Day 1?
To bring the Dartmoor Line back into full operational use as quickly and safely as possible, a substantial amount of work needs to be carried out to the existing infrastructure.
Network Rail are focused on assessing and renewing the track, bridges and drainage to allow the line to re-open in 2021 with one train every two hours in service. Further work to upgrade the infrastructure will enable the line speed to be increased, permitting an hourly passenger service to start by summer 2022.
Who is funding the reopening of the line?
The Department for Transport have provided the majority of the funding to allow the reopening as part of the flagship 'Restoring Your Railway' initiative.
Why don't all trains initially run to and from Exeter Central?
We recognise the importance of providing Okehampton with direct, fast trains into Exeter city centre. Peak-time trains will serve Exeter Central from Day 1 with more trains serving Exeter Central from December 2021.
Introducing services midway through the May-December timetable means that Dartmoor Line trains have to fit within the existing service, meaning not all trains are able to reach Exeter Central initially.
What is happening to the station building at Okehampton?
The fact that the station building has survived intact after so many years with no regular services is a cause for celebration. The station will be upgraded to meet modern standards with a ticket machine, customer help point, public address system, information screens, CCTV and Wi-Fi. A 'Pay & Display' car park will also be introduced. Platform upgrade works will take place before the start of services.
We are working with our partners to retain the heritage feel of the station for future generations, including provision of authentic, 1950s Southern Railway signage. The heritage aspect is a key principle in all the detailed design work being done on the station.
Will the reopened station at Okehampton be step-free?
All Dartmoor Line trains will use Platform 3 at Okehampton, which has step-free access from the front of the station.
What facilities will be available at Okehampton station?
The station will have a ticket machine, customer help point, public address system, information screens, CCTV and Wi-Fi.
We are also working with the local community who are looking to add new facilities to the station, including a café, Dartmoor National Park visitor centre, a shop and toilet facilities.
What stations will Dartmoor Line trains stop at?
All Dartmoor Line trains will stop at Exeter St Davids, Crediton and Okehampton. Selected services will also stop at Exeter Central and Newton St Cyres.
Will rail users at Crediton benefit from these services?
All Dartmoor Line services will stop at Crediton. Not only will this provide a regular service to Okehampton but it will also increase the frequency of trains between Crediton and Exeter. The hope is to run up to two trains an hour between the two stations by summer 2022.
Will Summer Sunday services operate during the Summer of 2021?
Network Rail will be upgrading the route during the summer of 2021 and as a result GWR will not be able to run trains until later on in the year.
During what hours will Network Rail be working and will it affect people living by the railway or using local roads?
Network Rail will work during daylight hours where possible but there may be occasion when night time working is required. Lineside neighbours and road users will be informed in advance of any work that may impact them. Network Rail are happy to answer any questions or queries through their helpline 03457 711 4141 or via email email@example.com.
What will happen to the level crossings used by local landowners and walkers?
Some of the level crossings will be upgraded with equipment to indicate whether it is safe to cross.
Will you be replacing the fencing along the entire length of the railway?
Network Rail will carry out inspections of all fencing and where repairs are needed these will be made. If you have concerns about fencing in your area, please contact the Network Rail National Helpline on 03457 711 4141 or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will the opening of the route be delayed by Covid-19?
The rail industry has continued to work throughout the pandemic to provide train services, carry out routine infrastructure maintenance and improvement work. The anticipated opening date accounts for the new ways of working brought in to manage Covid-19.
Will you provide updates on the progress of the project?
The dedicated website www.dartmoorline.com will provide a regular update of progress for everyone interested in the project.