The first public service on November 20 left Exeter St Davids at 06.32, reaching Okehampton at 07.10 and departing at 07.30.

UK: GWR began operating regular passenger services between Exeter and Okehampton on November 20, with the ‘Dartmoor Line’ from Crediton being the first route to be reopened under the government’s ’Restoring Your Railway’ initiative.

Under a project promoted by Devon County Council, Network Rail, GWR, the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership and Dartmoor Railway Association, the government allocated £40·5m in March for NR to repurchase and reconstruct a 22·5 km section of the former Exeter – Plymouth main line, which had been sold off as a freight-only route following the withdrawal of passenger services in 1972 but continued to host seasonal excursions.


Reopening of the route is expected to boost local businesses and tourism, as well as providing greater access to education and work for local residents. It is also expected to reduce traffic on the A30 trunk road, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the Dartmoor National Park.

Ahead of the public launch, a ceremony was held at Okehampton on November 17, attended by Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps, GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood and NR Chairman Sir Peter Hendy, together with local politicians and civic representatives.


‘This has been a key aspiration for the community and the rail industry for some time’, said Hopwood. ‘Today is a significant day for everyone who has been involved. The support and advocacy of the local campaigners over the years has helped deliver a fantastic new service for customers, which we hope will grow from strength to strength.’

GWR is initially operating a two-hourly service, with a journey time of around 40 min to Exeter St Davids, including a stop at Crediton where the revived route joins the ‘Tarka Line’ from Barnstaple; some trains continue to Exeter Central. An hourly service is envisaged in future, and GWR provided additional services at short notice to cope with the large numbers of passengers wishing to travel on the opening day.

Rapid reconstruction

By applying Project Speed techniques, NR and its contractors completed the reconstruction of the line in nine months and more than £10m under budget, enabling the line to reopen ahead of schedule. The work included the laying of 17·7 km of new track with 24 000 concrete sleepers and 29 000 tonnes over a 20-day period. Repairs were made to 21 structures including four bridges and improvements to level crossings, along with vegetation clearance, drainage works and fencing, plus the installation of signalling and telecommunications equipment. Further work to increase line speeds is envisaged in 2022.


New information screens, a Help Point, smartcard validation points, ticket vending machines and a waiting room have been provided at Okehampton. Further work on the station buildings will be carried out over the winter, to enable the restoration of the café and other facilities operated by a local heritage group.

‘This is something that the local community and our partners have wanted for a very long time, explained Michelle Handforth, Network Rail’s Regional Managing Director, Wales & Western. ‘I am thrilled through the close working of the project partners, the Dartmoor Line is opening ahead of schedule and under budget. I would like to pay tribute to our project team and engineers whose commitment and hard work has got us here.’

‘The re-opening of the Dartmoor Line marks a proud day for Devon, and everyone involved in making this happen to should rightly feel proud of what they have helped achieve’, said Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment & Transport. ‘It’s marvellous to see the Dartmoor Line reinstated, and to be the first rail line to re-open under the Government’s Restoring Your Railway programme is a magnificent accomplishment in itself.

‘Devon County Council maintained the Summer Sunday service on the line since 1997 and in doing so, demonstrated what could be achieved. If nothing else it kept hope alive that we could see a return of regular services between Okehampton and Exeter. A heartfelt thank you and well done goes to everyone in the community and partner organisations who have played a part in helping to revive the Dartmoor Line, and Network Rail and GWR have worked flat out to ensure that it opened this year.’