The day saw not only the official celebrations of the trainline’s first anniversary but the announcement that the service had exceeded expectations with a whopping 258,479 Dartmoor Line journeys made in one year.
The news has delighted train enthusiasts included Michael Ireland, chairman of OkeRail, the organisation which was instrumental in campaigning for the reopening of the railway line, who described Okehampton as ‘an oasis in the middle of a railway desert.’
He added: ‘I am exceptionally pleased to see that passenger numbers have been 200 percent up on what we thought.
‘it’s transformed travel to Exeter. You get people crowded on the train. Tourism has increased and it’s had an effect on house prices. We are now an oasis in the middle of a railway desert.’
The celebrations also included a visit from the new rail minister, Huw Merriman who was given a tour of the renewed station building and given the honour of unveiling a plaque to mark the official opening of the station building.
Mr Merriman said: ‘A big congratulations to everyone who has been involved in bringing this wonderful line back into regular use over the past year.
‘With over 250,000 journeys made, restoring this vital route has undone 50 years of damage – we’ve reconnected a community and created new opportunities for jobs, tourism, education and leisure.
‘Our Restoring Your Railway programme is making a real contribution to levelling up the country and breathing new life into previously cut-off areas.’
The Dartmoor Line reopened on November 20 last year, restoring a regular, year-round service for the first time in almost 50 years following more than £40m of Government investment.
The line, which runs between Okehampton and Exeter, was restored in just nine months and delivered £10m under budget, becoming the first former line to reopen under the Government’s £500m Restoring Your Railway programme.
Since Great Western Railway increased services to hourly in May 2022, passenger use has continued to rise, with more than 500 journeys starting at Okehampton every day and a further 300 travelling into the town from across the rail network.
In the same week as it celebrated its one-year anniversary, the Dartmoor Line also saw its 250,000th journey, showing an incredible patronage on the line and more than double the demand originally forecast.
Okehampton Station’s success story has prompted calls from others across the region to continue reopening stations across West Devon and into Cornwall and resulted in a bid for funding to build an additional train station on the east side of Okehampton.
Mr Ireland added that his hope for the future would be to see the Dartmoor Line linked up once again and confirmed that the group were continuing to work on establishing a second station on the eastern side of the town.
‘My big hope for the future is making a connection to Tavistock,’ he said. ‘We need to bring Okehampton to Tavistock and make an easier link to Plymouth. It’s not just for the business community but for environmental reasons.’
Central Devon MP Mel Stride also added his congratulations, saying: ‘The Dartmoor Line has been a huge success. It has boosted the local economy, provided a valuable service for more than 10,000 residents in and around Okehampton and it has taken cars off the A30.
‘The key now is securing additional funds for a second station on the eastern edge of town - something I am working closely with local councillors and campaigners to achieve.’