Okehampton railway station
|Location||Okehampton, West Devon, Devon|
|Original company||London and South Western Railway|
|2019||Last heritage train ran|
Passenger statistics from the Office of Rail and Road
Okehampton railway station is a railway station serving the town of Okehampton in Devon, England. The station closed to regular traffic in 1972, but heritage and occasional mainline services ran from 1997 to 2019. Regular mainline services are planned to operate again later in 2021.
The station opened in 1871 when the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) extended its line from Sampford Courtenay. Services were extended further west to Lydford with the inauguration of Meldon Viaduct in 1874. Constructed to rival the South Devon Railway route to Plymouth, the completion of the LSWR's own route to Plymouth saw Okehampton become an important junction with lines to Padstow and Bude as well as Plymouth. Boat trains carrying passengers from ocean liners calling at Stonehouse Pool, Plymouth and prestige services such as the Atlantic Coast Express and Devon Belle all used the route. From 1961 to 1964 it was the terminus of a car-carrying train from Surbiton.
With the publication of the Beeching Report in 1963, the line to Bude was put forward for closure as was part of the Exeter to Plymouth Line which was to be cut back to Okehampton. The local press were surprised at this decision, since many small towns had their railway services cut, yet Okehampton survived with a population under 4,000. Its survival prompted questions as to why the line should remain open when others, such as the Avocet Line which saw far more traffic, were proposed for closure. It was said that at the time Okehampton had about 50 regular users per day and a handful of season ticket holders.
The Avocet Line was saved from closure, but Okehampton lost its passenger services from 1972. The line survived, however, for the purposes of freight thanks to the activities of the British Rail ballast quarry at Meldon, three miles from Okehampton, which had an output of 300,000 tons per year. The line to the quarry closed in 2011.
1997 to 2019
As part of a local partnership scheme initiated and led by Devon County Council, Okehampton station was re-opened in 1997 and a Youth Hostel opened in the old goods shed, providing an activity centre as well. The Dartmoor Railway operated heritage passenger services from the station, running to Sampford Courtenay and Meldon. A summer Sunday service from Exeter to Okehampton operated as part of the Dartmoor Sunday Rover network.
The station building, which was used by Devon Training for Skills after 1972, was restored and reopened incorporating an independently owned model shop and café. After temporary closure during a change in railway ownership in 2008, the cafe was reopened by the Friends of Dartmoor Railway but closed in 2019. A craft centre previously operated on one of the platforms. This now houses a small exhibition and museum showing the history of the railway and station.[clarification needed]
British American Railway Services Ltd, a new company created by Iowa Pacific Holdings of Chicago, became the owner of the Dartmoor Railway on 4 September 2008. The company said it would develop freight, passenger and tourist services on the railway. This was never achieved. The last heritage service operated on 24 December 2019.
In November 2017, the Government included the reopening of the line from Exeter to Okehampton as part of its plans to expand the network, and a letter to local MPs from the secretary of state for transport, Chris Grayling, was sent out at the end of January 2018. In January 2020 it was announced that, due to financial problems, the British American Railway Services have put all their British operations up for sale including this railway. The United Kingdom government's November 2020 Spending Review included a commitment to restore passenger services and £40,000,000 was allocated for this work in the March 2021 government budget.
It was announced on 19 March 2021 that Okehampton station would reopen to regular services by the end of the year. This is to be funded as part of the Government's 'Restoring Your Railway' programme. The service is planned to be two-hourly between Okehampton and Exeter St Davids with some services extended to Exeter Central. The service will increase to hourly towards the end of 2022.
|Preceding station||Future services||Following station|
|Crediton||Great Western Railway
|Maddaford Moor Halt||British Rail Western Region
|Bridestowe||British Rail Western Region
Exeter to Plymouth Line
|Meldon Viaduct||Dartmoor Railway
1997 - 2019
Both Railfuture and Anthony Steen (who was MP for Totnes at the time) have proposed the reinstatement of the line between Okehampton and Bere Alston, thereby reconnecting the station with Plymouth. The reopening of the link would restore the continuous circuit of railway linking the towns around Dartmoor. On 18 March 2008, Devon County Council backed a separate proposal by developers Kilbride Community Rail to construct 750 houses in Tavistock that included reopening part of this route from Bere Alston to a new railway station in Tavistock.
It is argued that the line's reopening would provide an alternative route to Plymouth and the Cornish Main Line in the event of engineering work or storms on the sea wall near Dawlish, although that would entail a reversal at Plymouth for trains continuing to Cornwall. Reopening the line would also maintain rail links in the long-term should the line around Dawlish succumb to the sea, as it did on 5 February 2014.
- Holland 2014, p. 20.
- "Small railway station that survived axe now flourishes". Exeter Express and Echo. 15 October 2006. p. 4.
- Thomas 1975, p. 103.
- "YHA Okehampton". Matlock, Derbyshire: YHA. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
- Heritage Railway, Pub. Heritage Railway Magazine. Issue 116, 2 October 2008 – 29 October 2008. P. 18.
- "Connecting people: a strategic vision for rail" (PDF). Department for Transport. November 2017.
- French, Tom (30 January 2018). "Government prepares plans to introduce regular train services to Okehampton". Okehampton Times. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
- Pitt, Sarah (9 January 2020). "Dartmoor Railway is put up for sale". Okehampton Times. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
- "Budget 2021: Okehampton-Exeter train route receives £40m". BBC News. 4 March 2021. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
- "Dartmoor line rail services will be restored for first time in half a century". GOV.UK. Department for Transport. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
- Western Morning News, "Rail line will be lost to the sea", 3 May 2006, p. 6.
- Harris, Nigel (2008). "Taking trains back to Tavistock". Rail. Bauer (590): 40–45.
- Western Morning News, "Alternative to coast rail line lacks support", 4 January 2006, p. 2.
- "Devon and Cornwall storm causes 'devastation'". BBC News. 5 February 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
- Dartmoor Line reopening 2021 project website
- Dartmoor Railway Supporters Association website
- on YouTube
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