Rural rail re-opening will help Devon thrive

15th April 2021

We were delighted to welcome the recent news that, for the first time in nearly 50 years, daily rail services are set to resume between Okehampton and Exeter. This will really help connect communities on the north side of Dartmoor with services in Exeter.

CPRE drew attention to the benefits of re-opening the whole of the old line Exeter-Okehampton-Tavistock-Plymouth route in our report Rural Reconnections in 2015 so it’s great news to see this part of the service back in action.

Trains on the 14-mile stretch should be carrying commuters from December, with services running every two hours, seven days a week.

CPRE Devon has been actively supporting the scheme for a number of years, with director Penny Mills previously arguing that reinstating the service ‘would make such a huge difference to so many people across a large area of Devon and North Cornwall. Both local residents, businesses and visitors alike would benefit. It would also be good for the environment by helping to get cars off the road.’

Restoring countryside connections

With the line having been in use for Sunday leisure services since 1997, Rural Reconnections confirmed it provides the perfect location to start reversing some of the Beeching cuts. It examined the wider impact of opening a second main line for Devon and Cornwall, following flooding and landslips on the main coastal route to the south west. In a major boost for the re-opening campaign, it concluded that the line would provide major economic and social benefits for the rural areas along the route – including by improving connections with the existing public transport network.

'Re-opening rail lines connecting our towns and villages is an important step towards ensuring rural communities can thrive again.'
Chris Hinchliff, CPRE transport policy and campaigns officer

Commenting on the news, CPRE’s transport policy and campaigns officer, Chris Hinchliff, said: ‘This is brilliant news and a fantastic win for CPRE Devon. Over past decades, too many rural communities have become transport deserts with local people left with virtually no alternative to driving a car for the journeys they need to make in their day to day lives. The lack of public transport for rural communities has left older people cut-off from friends and family, forced younger generations to move away to access jobs and education, and contributed to deadly air pollution from roads choked with traffic.

‘Re-opening rail lines connecting our towns and villages is an important step towards ensuring rural communities can thrive again, and the restoration of Okehampton-Exeter services should be the first of many.’

A female couple hold hands with a small child on a rural train platform
We believe in the value of local transport, including rural rail, in helping the countryside to thrive