Mayors give first-class support to rail project

By Sally Shipton in Community News

TAVISTOCK and Okehampton mayors have shown their support for Oke Rail after attending an event held by the community group at Tavistock’s Pannier Market.

The Oke Rail event aimed to celebrate the success of the Royal Oke, a special one-off train journey to London on March 18 — now sold out — as well as rally support for the reinstatement of rail lines across West Devon.

Tavistock Mayor Cllr Mandy Ewings and Okehampton Mayor Cllr Jan Goffey were both in attendance.

The event also saw more than 60 people sign up to the rail campaign in just three hours.

Richard Searight, chair of the Peninsular Rail Group, said: ‘The fact that many people from Tavistock and surrounding areas are ticket holders serves to emphasise the importance of the restoration of Okehampton train services to our town and our whole region.’

‘The purpose of the event was to demonstrate the popular and commercial need for the re-establishment of rail links to West Devon.

‘They are crucial to our economic development.’

Mike Davies, chair of Oke Rail Forum, said: ‘I am really pleased that there is such enthusiasm for the special train from Okehampton to Paddington.

‘The speed that the tickets sold shows the demand we would have for tickets if we had a regular daily service to Okehampton.

‘On talking to people there is going to be a great atmosphere on the train.

‘I am especially pleased that the train has raised so much interest that we have both local and national media taking an interest.’

Michael Ireland, chair of Oke Rail CIC, said: ‘At a recent meeting of Travel Watch South West, Sir Peter Hendy argued that railways create wealth, bringing economic growth, jobs and houses.

‘The north west of the Peninsula lacks this opportunity for growth, because if you draw a line between Bridgwater and Newquay it is a “rail desert” apart from the Tarka line.

‘In Okehampton and the surrounding towns, Tavistock, Bude, Hatherleigh, Holsworthy and Launceston, we have the houses but limited well-paid employment opportunities.

‘A rail link to Okehampton has the potential to transform the local economy. 

‘We understand the need to attract third party money for development of the Okehampton to Exeter line and have set up a community interest company, OkeRail CIC, for this purpose.’ 

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