Plans to reintroduce regular rail services between Exeter and Okehampton to be drawn up
Mr Grayling last week wrote to MPs with an update on rail upgrades in the South West.
In his letter, he wrote: “We have instructed GWR to prepare plans to introduce regular train services to Okehampton, with the objective of securing a credible and costed plan for delivering an all-week, all-year train service between Exeter and Okehampton as soon as reasonably practicable.”
Dr Michael Ireland, vice chair of the OkeRail Forum, told the Post: “After 10 years working tirelessly undertaken research on demand for this service, I am pleased to learn the Government, under instruction from Chris Grayling MP have agreed to introduce a regular train service.
“This will be a tremendous boost to the economy of West Devon and North Cornwall opening up new opportunities for businesses, training and tourism in the region. Towns like Bude, who rely on inbound tourism, will suddenly find they are much closer in time to new markets.
“Thanks must go to colleagues at GWR, Network Rail the DfT for working with OkeRail and other members of the community to make the case to Government for our line. The next step must be to reconnect Okehampton to Plymouth to provide resilience in rough weather.”
Welcoming the news, North Cornwall Conservative MP Scott Man said: “I’m very pleased to receive this commitment from the Transport Secretary.
“I made it a pledge to get regular services back to Okehampton to meet the needs of residents in the north of North Cornwall, and along with the commitment of making our railways more resilient, faster and frequent, the Transport Secretary also wants to see regular services returning to Okehampton.”
Cllr Margaret Young, mayor of Launceston, has been attending recent meetings discussing Okehampton rail services, to observe and represent the area. She said: “I think it’s so important. I just think it’s such a great asset. It’s opening up communications.”
Supporters in Torridge and West Devon also reacted to the news.
Devon County Council cabinet member, Conservative Cllr Barry Parsons, who represents Holsworthy Rural, said: “I’m thrilled to see the interest being taken by the Secretary of State, not only in taking time to visit but in following up on his clear interest in transport issues in the South West.
“Local residents often tell me they feel rural areas lose out on issues like transport, compared to larger, urban centres.
“It is therefore a wonderful breath of fresh air to read Mr Grayling’s commitments regarding Okehampton, which is within reach for residents here, and Dawlish.
“Torridge as a district contains some significant pockets of deprivation. It would be great to start a conversation about connecting Devon and Cornwall via Okehampton initially, and then perhaps onto Bude through Holsworthy.”
Cllr Andrew Saywell, Conservative Devon county councillor for Torrington Rural, said: “With rail services coming back to West Devon, I hope we can now look at long-term proposals to restore rail services in Torridge.
“This will not only boost the local economy but ultimately improve the connectivity of one of the most isolated areas of rural Devon.”
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