Just over a year after the Dartmoor Line reopened to regular passenger trains, journey numbers on the line have passed 250,000 this Monday morning [28 November], with the arrival of an extra special visitor, Rail Minister Huw Merriman MP, to officially open the renovated station building at Okehampton.
The line reopened on 20 November 2021, restoring a regular, year-round service for the first time in almost 50 years following more than £40m of Government investment.
The previously-mothballed rail 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.
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.
Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment & Transport, Cllr Andrea Davis, said: ‘It’s marvellous to see the Dartmoor Line celebrating its first anniversary, and passing a remarkable 250,000 journeys in the last 12 months demonstrates the transformational impact the return of rail services has had on Okehampton, West Devon and North Cornwall.
‘I’m so pleased to see the station building brought back into use too. Much like the integrated bus services from the station to the likes of Tavistock, Bude and Launceston, it’s another example of the first-class partnership working between Devon County Council, GWR, Network Rail and others that exemplifies rail as an economic driver, not just tracks and trains.”
‘The Dartmoor Line offers links for work, study and leisure travel. It benefits students heading to the colleges in Exeter as well as tourists travelling to Dartmoor, easing congestion on local roads and helping boost the local economy.’
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.
The Minister met with local dignitaries and unveiled a plaque to mark the official reopening of the station building.
Central Devon MP, Mel Stride, said: ‘The Dartmoor Line has been a huge success. It has done everything I hoped it would - 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. This will maximise the economic benefit and reduce congestion in the town.’