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Dartmoor Line rail services restored

Back to the future

Trains every two hours to reduce A30 congestion

Regular passenger services are set to be restored on a popular railway line between Okehampton and Exeter for the first time in almost 50 years, thanks to £40.5 million of investment, the Government has announced.

The Department for Transport, Network Rail, and Great Western Railway (GWR) are working together to reopen the Dartmoor line to passengers all year round. Since 1997 the line has only been open during the summer after a regular service was withdrawn in 1972. 

A service will initially run every two hours later this year, with the expectation it will increase to an hourly service towards the end of 2022. This will benefit students heading to colleges in Exeter as well as tourists travelling in the other direction towards Okehampton for Dartmoor, easing congestion on local roads.

This is the first project to see services restored under the Government’s Restoring Your Railway fund, launched in January 2020 to reinstate axed local services and restore closed stations. The fund is focused on delivering schemes that can level up the country, reinvigorating high streets, reconnecting cut-off communities and boosting opportunity across the country.

The Government has also announced £37.4m of funding for the critical third phase of works to improve resilience on the coastal railway between Holcombe and Dawlish. This is in addition to a £341m package of rail enhancements already committed across the South West.

Network Rail is set to begin work later this summer on a rockfall shelter and netting to address instability on an area of steep, high cliffs to the north of Parson’s Tunnel between Holcombe and Dawlish.

This is the part of the South West Rail Resilience Programme to create a more resilient railway after storms caused significant damage to the line in 2014, closing the railway for 8 weeks and severing the South-West Peninsula from the rest of the network.

Phase 1 of the programme, to build a new £80million seawall on the seafront west of Dawlish station to protect 360 metres of railway and homes behind it, was completed in July 2020 and opened by the Rail Minister in September.

Work on the second phase of the new seawall, to extend it a further 415 metres eastwards from Colonnades to Coastguards, began in November 2020 with support from an innovative eight-legged, jack-up barge, known as a ‘Wavewalker’. Work is ongoing and is expected to be completed by 2023.

Today’s news comes on top of £341million of rail enhancements already announced in the South West including:

The development of a new £53mdepot in Exeter providing enhanced servicing facilities for trains and improving the availability of trains in the region, including for the Dartmoor Line. 

Ongoing capacity upgrades at Bristol East Junction, worth £132m, and £60m station improvements at Bristol Temple Meads as part of the Bristol Rail Regeneration programme. 

Contribution of £7.8m for Edginswell station in Torbay from the third round of the New Stations Fund. The Station is planned to be opened in 2024. 
Investment of more than £8.48mfor improvements at a number of stations across the region including:

- £1.7m for delivery of accessibility and car parking improvements at Castle Cary station, with construction to start in Spring 2021. 
- £6.6m for station improvements and new car parking at Taunton station, with construction to finish in Spring 2021. 
- £183,000 to upgrade the previously derelict station building at Saltash station

Contractual support through the Great Western franchise agreement for the Plymouth station scheme with construction ongoing until 2029.  

More information about the Dartmoor Line can be found here.

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