Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has committed more than £40million in today’s budget to restoring rail services between Okehampton and Exeter via Crediton that were lost to the Beeching cuts of the 1960s. The funding, part of the Department for Transport’s ‘Restoring your Railway’ initiative, means that trains should be running every two hours, seven days a week by the end of 2021. Plans are also in place to increase this service to hourly during 2022.
Central Devon MP Mel Stride who has helped lead the campaign for the service – a campaign that began nearly a decade ago – has thanked the Chancellor.
“I’m delighted that after many years of local campaigning the Government has backed this vital scheme. I look forward to seeing Network Rail ready the track for the return of regular passenger services in the coming months; so we can reconnect communities, boost tourism and give many thousands of my constituents the quality of local transport infrastructure they should rightly expect.”
The rail service is expected to bring in millions of pounds of tourism revenue, boosting the economies of both Okehampton and Crediton, and will benefit students who live in or near Okehampton but travel into Exeter to study. Mr Stride has also highlighted the environmental benefits of taking cars off the A30 and easing congestion at the Alphington Road roundabout, reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality.
Before the service can begin, upgrades will be made to Okehampton station including the installation of a ticket vending machine, platform validators, Help Point, public address system, information screens, CCTV and free publicly available WiFi. A 'Pay & Display' car park will also be introduced and the station building and platform will be fully accessible with a café, shop and toilets for passengers’ convenience.
Photo: Mel with campaigners in 2018.