A regular passenger rail service between Okehampton and Exeter is returning, the Government has confirmed.
The reopening of the line between Okehampton and Exeter was included in last week’s Government Comprehensive Spending Review and the National Infrastructure Strategy.
It included the government’s commitment to the restoring the service for the first time since regular Okehampton to Exeter passenger services were withdrawn on June 5, 1972, although since 1997 a limited service has run between Okehampton and Exeter on Sundays during the summer.
A spokesman for OkeRail said: “After weeks of not being able to say anything, the confirmation that the government are restoring the passenger service was in the spending review.
“On page 41, Restoring your Railway, it states that the government will also deliver on its manifesto commitment to spend £500 million to restore transport services previously lost in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, including reopening the Ashington-Blyth line in Northumberland to passenger services, and restoring rail links to Okehampton in Devon.
“The government has also launched a New Ideas Fund to pay for feasibility work on proposals for new lines and stations.
“Now while this IS only one sentence, do not underestimate the significance. It is the government’s commitment to the service. More information about when the service will start, will follow in the coming weeks while work is being carried out now on the line by Network Rail to prepare the infrastructure.”
Cllr Andrea Davis, Devon County Council’s cabinet member for infrastructure, said: “This is fantastic news and extremely welcome as we look to support the recovery of the county’s economy. We have had a long-standing commitment to re-introduce regular rail services to Okehampton, and behind the scenes we’ve been lobbying and closely working with Network Rail, GWR and local partners to give this project the best chance of becoming a reality. It has been a great example of collaborative working from all involved.
“I’m pleased to see that the Department for Transport has backed our collective view that this line deserves support. The County Council has invested a huge amount of time and money into keeping the line alive with the Summer service and also carrying out the study which provides the groundwork for developing plans for this project. I’m sure the local community will be delighted this scheme is getting Government backing.”
Cllr Kevin Ball, who represents the Okehampton ward, added that the line would benefit everyone in West Devon, not just those in around the Okehampton area, and that after many false hopes it was confirmation that it would happen.