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Why reopening one train line in Devon is only the start of a much-needed rail revolution

Benedict Jenkins - Uncategorized
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“After 50yrs the Dartmoor Line is again!” So wrote the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, in an excited tweet.

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“Companies shall be operating from Exeter to Okehampton from 20 November. It’s all a part of the DfT’s #RestoringYourRailway programme – reversing historic cuts like these of Dr Beeching to reopen strains for native communities as soon as extra.”

Over £40m has been spent on new observe, sleepers and ballast for half of the previous inland route from Exeter to Plymouth.

Understanding railway fans as I do, the preliminary departure from Exeter to breezy Okehampton that Saturday morning at 6.32am shall be packed for the 15-mile, 38-minute run. The beautiful central Devon surroundings shall be wasted on pioneering passengers, as a result of near-total darkness as they trundle via the county at a mean of 24mph.

The return to Exeter departs in the intervening time of dawn, and likewise has a helpful connection to inter-city trains to Bristol in underneath two hours – which is the sort of timing that might persuade some folks to depart the automobile behind.

I’ll do my greatest to be on board there, glad to report on higher connectivity for travellers in southwest England – one other small however welcome step from essentially the most pro-rail UK authorities we’ve seen in a lifetime,

I cannot, although, inform fairly the identical story because the transport secretary.

Forty-nine years in the past, underneath a Conservative authorities that cheerfully continued the infrastructure destruction of the earlier Labour administration, the road between Exeter to Okehampton on the northern fringe of Dartmoor was closed to passenger visitors.

However because of the tireless work of fans, who banded collectively underneath the banner of Dartmoor Railway, trains returned to the road in 1997 (I do imagine I reported on the reopening regardless that, as you’ll realise, I used to be exceedingly younger). Unusually for a heritage railway, regular passenger trains fashioned the idea of a summer-only, Sunday-only service. It ran for greater than 20 years, till Covid and monetary unravelling put an finish to it.

Whereas it’s straightforward to be churlish about ministerial claims, this twice-reopened line will definitely assist the rail passengers – precise and potential – of Dartmoor. Not are they imprisoned for all however a day per week in summer season. The 6,000 residents of Okehampton will profit from their small city being placed on the map, as will we vacationers.

However speaking of maps: one look reveals the chance to show the rail cul-de-sac into one thing quite extra helpful.

The hyperlink to Okehampton is a part of the previous inland Exeter to Plymouth line that was operated by the London and South Western Railway. It was closed in 1968, leaving the extraordinarily coastal line through Dawlish the one hyperlink between the 2 cities. A storm in 2014 halted companies on the road for eight weeks, disconnecting Plymouth and Cornwall from the remainder of the nation.

Now the transport secretary ought to reopen one thing that’s positively closed (and, in locations, constructed over): that trans-Devon categorical line, bestowing resilience on part of the UK that desperately wants extra connections.

However whereas the Division for Transport needs a fast win to brag about earlier than then, getting multiple practice per week to cease at Teesside Airport station close to Darlington can be a begin.

The station opened to nice celebration 50 years in the past this month. However at present it’s served by only one practice per week – legally holding the station open, however in a meaningless method.

Teesside Airport station stands astride the unique route of the Stockton and Darlington Railway – the world’s first public railway to make use of steam locomotives (although, admittedly, to not get folks to the airport when it opened in 1825).

On the finish of the twentieth century an previous steam practice ran from Asuncion to the airport serving the Paraguayan capital. Not less than that ran as soon as a day. So please begin a practical service to Teesside Airport; simply don’t fake it’s new.

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