In November 2020 the Government included an Okehampton to Exeter (via Crediton) rail service in its National Infrastructure Strategy (click here for more information on this). Mel has been one of the leading campaigners for the service for the past decade, working closely with campaign group OkeRail. He has organised multiple ministerial visits to the constituency, including by then Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin, to listen to local campaigners and hear the arguments first-hand.
He has also secured key meetings with ministers in London which have been instrumental in getting the Government behind the proposal, including with the current Secretary of State Grant Shapps.
Mel has fought hard for this service because:
- it would provide a valuable service to more than 10,000 residents in and around Okehampton who don’t have access to a rail service,
- it would help take commuters off the road, reducing congestion into Exeter at rush hour and reducing air pollution for villages along the A30.
- it would be a major boost to the local economies of both Okehampton and Crediton,
- and (if Okehampton is then linked to Plymouth) it would provide a second route into South Devon and Cornwall, improving resilience in the event of a problem on the existing line (such as flooding at Dawlish).
A former President of the Tarka Line (the rail service that runs through much of the Mid Devon part of Central Devon), Mel successfully fought with local councillors to keep the smaller stations on the line open after a North Devon campaign group lobbied for their closure to reduce journey times between Barnstaple and Exeter.
Mel has also fought to preserve a number of local bus services, once even persuading the then Managing Director of Stagecoach to personally drive a bus route in Crediton that the company was looking to cut. Mel was able to demonstrate the importance of the route and that very little time was saved by reducing the number of stops. The route was reinstated.