The Transport Secretary has confirmed that he wants to see Cornwall’s main railway operator bringing back regular passenger services to Okehampton, a step which has been welcomed by North Cornwall MP Scott Mann.
Chris Grayling revealed the news within a letter to South West MPs where he reaffirmed his commitment to improving Devon and Cornwall’s railways.
In the letter, the Transport Secretary said that safeguarding the line at Dawlish remains his “number one national priority”, with £15 million already being spent to work out a plan of action. Although the line often gets battered by stormy seas, it is actually cliff falls that threaten to disrupt rail services.
Chris Grayling also revealed that he had requested Great Western Railway (GWR) to plan for the return of services to Okehampton.
“In addition, 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 possible.”
Welcoming the news, North Cornwall MP Scott Mann said:
“I’m very pleased to receive this commitment from the Transport Secretary today.
“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.”
In January 2017, the Peninsula Rail Task Force (PRTF) published its ‘Closing the Gap’ report which identified the short, medium and long term goals to improving the region’s railways, including proposals to cut journey times, increase the frequency of services and to make the network more resilient from flooding and cliff erosion.
Work is already underway on re-signalling the main line between Totnes and Penzance to allow two trains per hour in each direction. The more frequent services will include short versions of the High Speed Trains (HSTs) which currently run between Cornwall and London Paddington. These trains will be replaced by GWR’s new Intercity Express bi-modal units which will be longer and faster.
The new trains are already in service between London, Bristol and Taunton and will be rolled out in Cornwall later this year.