OkeRail On Track

Ben Fox
Ben Fox

Members of Okerail and Clare Tyson, the mayor of Hatherleigh, have been taking to the streets handing out flyers about the Royal Oke train from Okehampton to Oxford and Stratford Upon-Avon.

The special service will depart from Okehampton Station on Saturday 21st April at 7.10am, returning at 8.45pm the same day, with buses running from Hatherleigh and Bude.

This is the second ‘special’ to be run by Okerail; the first last year to London Paddington was the first in half a century and paved the way for the forthcoming rail service to Exeter St Davids which is due to start next year.

Transport Secretary Chris Greyling asked Great Western Railway (GWR) to prepare plans to reopen the line and service to Exeter. Matthew Barnes the regional development officer with GWR is preparing the plan for the Department of Transport.

In a recent meeting Dr Michael Ireland, the vice chairman of Okerail, and Matthrew Barnes of GWR put the new service at the top of the tree.

Dr Ireland said: “The first train last year was important to demonstrate the regional demand for the line. This is why it is important that key settlements like Hatherleigh, Holdsworthy and Bude show their support.”

Mel Stride the MP for Mid Devon said: “The special Royal Oke train to London last year was a brilliant event that gave local residents a memorable day and was a key opportunity for me to meet the rail minister with local campaigners when we arrived. It did a great deal to promote the campaign for the return of the service. I have no doubt that a second special trip will be equally successful.”

The train will have a Pullman dining car and buffet service. Tickets are £47.50 for standard class and £27.00 for children. There are plans for a second station, Okehampton Parkway, near Mole Avon and just off the Exeter road which would alleviate traffic from the town centre.

Campaigners have also been pushing to have the line reopened from Plymouth to Exeter – an inland route via Tavistock and Okehampton since the winter storms a few years ago washed the line into the sea at Dawlish, effectively cutting off the South West from the rest of the country. The line between Plymouth and Okehampton is two thirds intact.

Tavistock’s mayor has also said he is ‘as confident as he can be’ of getting the town’s rail link reinstated between Tavistock to Bere Alston.
Councillor Philip Sanders was asked about the Tavistock to Bere Alston rail link – and the associated housing development off Callington Road – during the Annual Parish Assembly in the town hall on March 20th.

Resident Neil Ball, of Buctor Park, asked: “Could you tell me whether you are still confident of getting our rail link back?”

Bovis Homes received outline planning permission back in 2015 for a development of 750 houses off Callington Road, together with a primary school, a convenience store and a railway station.

As part of the agreement, they are being asked to contribute at least £10 million towards the reinstatement of the Tavistock to Bere Alston
rail line.

Devon County Council has said this should happen at the same time to relieve congestion from commuters on the A386 between Tavistock and Plymouth.

However Mr Ball said things had gone very quiet on the development. “Another year has gone by of wondering whether this is going to get off the ground,” he said.

Cllr Sanders said: “The track bed is still in existence, the tunnels are still in existence and there is no good reason why the railway should not be reinstated. All the embankments would have to be re-established, though, if it is going to be a single track railway.

‘All the plans are geared towards providing a single track in for a new station off Callington Road, linking it to Bere Alston.”

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