Rail line upgrade
Devon, England, UK
Great Western Railway
Dartmoor Line between Crediton and Okehampton in Devon, UK, is undergoing a major upgrade to improve rail connectivity in the region. The upgrade project will re-open the 22.53km-long line for daily passengers to Exeter for the first time in 50 years.
Expected to take place before the end of 2021, the reopening of the railway line will bring investment to Okehampton and nearby areas. The line will encourage local people to use sustainable rail services to access the leisure destinations in Okehampton and nearby areas.
Great Western Railway (GWR), a British train operating company owned by multi-national transport group FirstGroup, will run train services between Exeter and Okehampton, with a frequency of every two hours initially before improving to an hourly service from Summer 2022. Connection to Exeter will improve links to the rest of the UK as it is a major hub in the region.
Dartmoor rail line details
Okehampton station was opened in October 1871 by the Devon & Cornwall Railway Company, which merged into the London & South Western Railway, enabling through services from London Waterloo and Exeter to Okehampton. The Dartmoor line was closed for passenger services in 1972.
The Okehampton line will be the third rail line and the longest to be opened for regular passenger services in Devon and Cornwall in the last 100 years. The selected train services will stop at Exeter Central and Newton St Cyres.
Trains on the Dartmoor line will run between Okehampton, Crediton and Exeter St Davids. Stoppage at Crediton will ensure a regular service to Okehampton, while increasing train services between Crediton and Exeter. The reopening will allow passengers to reach Exeter St Davids in approximately 40 minutes.
Dartmoor Rail Line upgrade details
The upgrade project involves improvements to the track and other infrastructure to enable the reopening of the Dartmoor line for passenger services. The Okehampton station is also being upgraded through the installation of a ticket vending machine, help point, public address system, CCTV, information display systems, and free Wi-Fi.
As part of the rail line upgrade, a ‘pay and display’ car park will also be developed with dedicated parking bays for persons with disabilities. The Okehampton station building and platform will become fully accessible upon the completion of upgrades. The Dartmoor line trains will use Okehampton station’s platform three, which has step-free access from the entrance. Plans also include a cafe, shops, and toilet facilities.
Furthermore, the project involves the replacement of old track, clearing lineside vegetation, assessing structures, and installation of new mobile masts that allow effective communication between train drivers and signal operators. Several level crossings will also be upgraded to improve safety.
A parkway station at the east end of Okehampton is also planned to be developed in future.
Detailed investigations for the rail line upgrade project were carried out during early 2020. Construction work involves drainage, fencing, earthworks, laying more than 17.7km of track, replacement of 24,000 concrete sleepers, and installation of approximately 29,000t of ballast. Test runs will be performed before the line is opened for commercial operations.
The first 430m of track was laid between Coleford Junction and Okehampton in March 2021. A 45m-long new track with 65 new concrete sleepers, new rail, and 200mm of fresh ballast, was installed on North Tawton Bridge, in April 2021.
The UK Government has committed more than £40m ($55.67m) to the Dartmoor line upgrade project under the Department for Transport’s £500m ($665.34m) ‘Restoring Your Railway’ initiative that aims to reinstate abandoned lines and reopen closed stations across the country.
GWR-operated Class 150, 158, and Turbo trains will run on the Dartmoor line. The trains will operate in two-car formations and include approximately 130 seats per service and comply with the latest accessibility standards.
Benefits of Dartmoor line upgrade
The project will enhance the connectivity in the region and reduce travel times by around 30% when compared to car or bus. In addition, it will reduce traffic congestion and pollution on the A30 road. The Dartmoor line will improve access to and from the mid and west Devon and north Cornwall areas.
Upgrades to the rail line and Okehampton station will support tourism growth by improving connectivity to the surrounding Dartmoor National Park and the Granite Way cycle route between Okehampton and Lydford. The reopening of the Dartmoor line will also provide access to education, shopping, and work areas.
Key players involved
The project is being implemented by Network Rail, in partnership with Great Western Railway, and Devon County Council.
Project partners also include Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, and the Department for Transport.