The Okehampton Line

Restoring the second route from Exeter to Plymouth around the north side of Dartmoor

Reopening the route between Exeter and Plymouth which runs round the north side of Dartmoor, via Okehampton and Tavistock, has long been advocated by Railfuture and others. This would be an additional railway route to that via Dawlish, Newton Abbot and Totnes. On 19 March 2021 the government took the first step by announcing that regular services from Exeter to Okehampton would be restored in 2021, as the first reopening to be completed by the Restoring Your Railway initiative.

from Gerard Duddridge
The closed section of railway beyond Okehampton runs hidden in the landscape below the rocky outcrops of Sourton Tors and the Dartmoor granite mass behind. View South-eastwards from near Northlew.

In May 2023 recent and possible progress was considered in this video: "Which lines could return on the former West Devon railway network?" Note especially Devon County Council's Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, Cllr. Andrea Davis, at 01:42-02:41. (The bid mentioned at 02:00-02:25 was successful, with a Strategic Outline Business Case submitted to the DfT in autumn 2022 and its approval given by Rail Minister Huw Merriman on 4th October 2023.)

Reopening the railway from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton would:
  1. Provide an alternative route for when the sea disrupts normal Exeter to Plymouth train services via Dawlish and Teignmouth, and/or if land slipping and debris flows have to be dealt with on the section of line between Parsons Tunnel and Teignmouth. In addition the tracks are steep and tightly curved on the railway between Newton Abbot and Plymouth, potentially leading to more track maintenance and temporary line closure. Whilst passengers can be transferred to bus replacement services, these make travelling particularly difficult for those with disability or simply carrying luggage. For short notice emergencies it is not always possible to arrange enough buses and they cannot substitute for rail freight movements or the overnight sleeper service from Penzance to Paddington. The alternative Okehampton route is needed and has been needed for these reasons ever since its closure as a through route in 1968.

  2. Provide more line capacity for developing both passenger and rail freight services west of Exeter to Plymouth, Cornwall and Torbay. On the existing route, between Exeter and Newton Abbot, space on the tracks for long distance trains is competing against the need for local trains to stop at places such as Dawlish and Teignmouth. With more overall line capacity west of Exeter reopened/new stations could be considered for Exminster and perhaps Bishopsteignton.

  3. Provide a railhead at Okehampton for large parts of West Devon and North Cornwall that are many miles from the existing rail network. Places that would benefit include Holsworthy and Launceston and the Cornish coast between Bude, Boscastle and Tintagel. On the reopened route Tavistock would regain rail services and a commuter link into Plymouth avoiding the mostly single carriageway and congested A386 road.
During early 2020 Network Rail were been busy strengthening the sea wall at Dawlish, on the existing railway between Exeter and Plymouth. This should ensure that there is no repeat of the sea wall collapse and loss of the actual track that took place in February 2014. However, this does not provide a guarantee that there will be no disruption to the actual running of train services from time to time by the sea and other factors such as track maintenance. The Network Rail work on the coastal line does not increase line capacity for more trains west of Exeter.

Unlike the work at Dawlish, which is just adding to the existing sea wall, the work at Teignmouth is a major civil engineering project for the sea wall and cliffs that is likely to result in disruption to rail services. If the full route between Exeter, Okehampton Tavistock and Plymouth were reopened before work on the cliffs at Teignmouth is undertaken then services could be maintained between Exeter and Plymouth. Passenger services started running from Exeter to Okehampton from 20th November 2021. Railfuture suggests that the service should be restored as soon as possible beyond Okehampton to Tavistock and Bere Alston and then over the existing track to Plymouth.

from Gerard Duddridge
There are Network Rail plans for rebuilding the sea wall and stabilising the steep cliffs on the existing coastal route here near Teignmouth. If this solution is adopted construction will be disruptive for rail passengers, so ideally the alternative Okehampton route would be reopened first to allow diversion of Exeter to Plymouth and Cornwall trains during the work.

The Okehampton route from Exeter to Plymouth is 57¾ miles long compared to 52 miles via Dawlish and Newton Abbot. The original route from St. Budeaux Victoria Road into Plymouth via Ford was just over half a mile longer than that used today via Keyham for Bere Alston to Plymouth trains. This alternative route into Plymouth made sense when the new Lydford to Devonport route was opened in 1890, as today's Keyham route was then still partly single track and under the control of the rival Great Western Railway. Today the Ford route trackbed has been lost to around 150 houses and the City College on the Devonport station site. In addition the Ford viaduct was demolished in 1986.

The distances in the table below are compiled using data from the Network Rail Sectional Appendix August 2020 and from other sources.

Table of Exeter - Okehampton - Plymouth distances
Table to show the status of different sections of the Okehampton line. The mileage at Meldon is approximate. Crediton to Okehampton reopened to regular passenger services since Saturday 20th November 2021.

Restoring Exeter to Okehampton

In January 2018 the Secretary of State for Transport instructed Great Western Railway to provide a service between Exeter and Okehampton. In late-September 2020 it was reported that 'restoration of regular passenger services to Okehampton (from Exeter) is in Network Rail's second tranche of seven Project Speed case studies. The National Infrastructure Strategy, launched in the Spending Review 2020, re-affirmed that "The government will also deliver on its manifesto commitment to spend £500 million to restore transport services previously lost in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, including ... restoring rail links to Okehampton in Devon." (Chapter 2, Levelling up the whole of the UK, Connecting nations and regions.) That statement was confirmed on 3 March 2021 when the Budget included "Investments in local railways and stations – This Budget will also unlock more than £40 million of funding to reinstate passenger services on the Okehampton-Exeter line], subject to final approval of costs and contracts. (Chapter 2, para. 2.132). These investments (including five new West Midlands stations) will provide good quality transport links between communities, and improve employment opportunities across these areas."

On 19 March 2021 the government announced that regular services will be restored between Exeter St Davids and Okehampton in 2021. Prior to the 1972 closure some Okehampton line trains stopped at Newton St. Cyres and almost always at Yeoford, Bow, North Tawton and Sampford Courtenay. With the new service there are fewer intermediate stations, but all services stop at Crediton and a few at Newton St Cyres (currently 6 Exeter bound and 3 Okehampton bound).

Services were initially 2-hourly, but increasing to hourly early in 2022. The car park at Okehampton station has been improved, but it is necessary to pay for parking. There are plans for a parkway station to be constructed in future, east of Okehampton, to act at a railhead for West Devon. The track has been relaid, which has allowed the low line speed to be increased to give a journey time of around 35 minutes between Okehampton and Exeter St. Davids and 40 minutes to Exeter Central.

Except for Okehampton Parkway there are no current plans by Great Western to serve any other intermediate station, however we suggest that North Tawton is kept under review and that Sampford Courtenay is a request stop for a few trains per day, at least on Sundays when there are no alternative buses in the area. Sampford Courtenay has for many years had a summer Sunday service supported by Devon County Council.


PHO:2021.05.02 - NorthTawton

PHO:2021.10.23 - Greenslade Bridge

PHO:2021.10.23 - Greenslade Bridge 2

Top Left - The first signs of work as seen at Penstone footpath crossing the Dartmoor Railway on 27th March 2021. The Network Rail/Dartmoor Railway boundary is clearly marked across the tracks and new rail has been delivered. The view is to Coleford Junction just out of sight around the curve. Top Right - Completed new track except for ballast at the old North Tawton station site on 2nd May 2021.

Bottom Left - The Okehampton line crosses the Crediton to Okehampton road at Greenslade Bridge (viewed to west) and is between North Tawton and Sampford Courtenay. Bottom Right - Work has been done to replace the two longitudinal timbers that support the former up line track. Picture 23rd October 2021.

For more information on upgrading the Okehampton line see The Dartmoor Line.

Information and ideas for Devon and Cornwall Bus-Rail links - Bus-Rail Links.

A More Detailed Look at the Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton Railway from Railfuture Devon and Cornwall


This section contains information about the Okehampton route, things that should be considered and some suggestions. It is intended to inform discussion and act as a briefing document and does not rule out other options and variations. Discussion is based around a single track option, but with adequate passing capacity for at least 2 trains per hour each way.

In summary - The current Local Authority proposal is for an hourly service from Plymouth to a new Tavistock Park and Ride station on the south west edge of the town (shown red on the map). These trains would pass at Keyham, which is very similar to the green and blue line shown on the timetable graph. However, here Railfuture suggests a short extension into/closer to Tavistock town centre as soon as possible (purple line on the map). To accommodate this extension these trains would not call at Bere Ferrers, but would still serve Devonport, Keyham, St. Budeaux Victoria Road and Bere Alston.

With further reopening the Plymouth to Tavistock service is then extended over further restored track via Lydford (green line on map) to join the disused freight line at Meldon, and the existing hourly Okehampton to Exeter service. Station stops north from Tavistock would be Okehampton, the not yet reopened Okehampton P&R station and Crediton. The timetable would allow some trains to call at Newton St. Cyres (blue line on timetable graph) or Sampford Courtenay (green line on graph). Journey time at a maximum 75mph would be 1 hour 20 minutes with 10 stops between Plymouth and Exeter.

Capacity for an additional hourly service is shown by the red lines on the graph. These trains would be express and normally only call at Tavistock (North) and Okehampton, but timings would allow a suggested new station at Lydford village to be served. Plymouth to Exeter would be covered in about 1 hour 7 minutes. They might not be used every hour throughout the day, except to provide a 2 trains per hour service each way between Tavistock and Plymouth.

The dashed black lines on the graph, show the Gunnislake service as hourly. The dashed purple lines are there to demonstrate how a future service from Exeter to Bude and Launceston line could be accommodated on the Okehampton route. For clarity only some of these hourly paths are shown.

Map of Okehampton route
Strategy map for the Okehampton lines.

A timetable graph for the Okehampton line.

Exeter to Okehampton.

Cowley Bridge Junction to Newton St Cyres

The railway from Cowley Bridge Junction to Newton St. Cyres and on to Crediton was singled in 1984, although the first ¼ mile became single in 1965-66 when two new bridges were installed over the 2 channels of the River Exe. Whilst single track is sufficient for 2 trains per hour for the Okehampton line, the route also carries the Barnstaple line service. For reliability some or all of this section would be best restored to double track, but with the probable exception of the two single track bridges over the River Exe.

The two single track River Exe bridges on the Crediton line and dating from 1965-66.

Newton St. Cyres – some trains provided by the Okehampton service
Newton St. Cyres parish has a population of around 876 (2017 ONS estimate, Office for National Statistics) and about half live in the actual village located on the A377 road from Exeter to Barnstaple. There is a frequent bus service on the main road to Exeter and the railway station is over half a mile away.

However, around 75 residents live at Sweetham which which forms a small community around the station, together with the famous Beer Engine public house and village recreation ground. There is no pavement from the main village, but there is lighting.

Prior to closure of the Okehampton line Newton St. Cyres was served by a combination of Barnstaple and Okehampton line services. From 1968 to 1972 there were 3 to 4 trains to Exeter and 6 to 7 from Exeter. The 1972/73 timetable carried the note about the closure stating, 'This may result in adjustments to the Exeter - Barnstaple service". In fact this never really happened and ever since Newton St. Cyres has had a poor rail service. In the 2021 timetable Newton St. Cyres was well served by Barnstaple line trains in the evening, but only once during the day with a morning commuter timed train into Exeter.

The initial Exeter to Okehampton service operating from 20th November 2021, gave the village one additional train each way during the day. Since the Okehampton service became hourly in 2022 further Newton St. Cyres stops have been added. This website suggests that the Okehampton service provides a regular 2 hourly service (blue lines on timetable graph).

Crediton – and on to Yeoford
Crediton has a population of around 8000 and is the most important intermediate station for both the Okehampton and Barnstaple routes. The station is 7 miles from Exeter St. Davids (mile post 179 miles 76 chains) and with 2 platforms is the passing point on the single track line. Since the new Okehampton service became hourly in 2022 Crediton has had 2 trains per hour to Exeter (one from each route).

From Crediton the former double track line is operated as 2 separate single lines. After passing through Yeoford they separate at Coleford Junction (milepost 183 miles 76 chains) for Okehampton and Barnstaple. Restoring this 4 mile section of two parallel single lines to true double track working, in conjunction with double track at Okehampton, would provide capacity for 2 trains per hour eachway between Crediton and Okehampton.

~/tc~PHO:2017.05.06 - Crediton SB
On 6th May 2017 a Barnstaple bound train halts to pick up the token for the section of line to Eggesford and will then crossover to the Barnstaple track using points seen in the far distance. A similar arrangement would be satisfactory for the Okehampton service in the short term. When operating as the full route to Plymouth this system should be upgraded to shorten travel times.

PHO:2017.05.06 - Salmon pool LC
Salmonpool level crossing between Crediton and Yeoford, as shown here in May 2017, has for many years slowed trains to 25 mph on both the Barnstaple and Okehampton line tracks. It has recently been upgraded to half barrier operation allowing 70 mph for Barnstaple bound trains. The Okehampton line track should now be upgraded as well from its current maximum 40 mph.

Yeoford – to continue to be served mainly or entirely by Barnstaple line trains
Yeoford is a small village within the large parish of Crediton Hamlets and is on the railway at about 10½ miles from Exeter St Davids (mile post 182 miles 79 chains. The number of houses suggests that around 350 people live within ½ mile of the station. It is well served by the hourly Exeter to Barnstaple service. The only buses are once a day on Tuesdays and Fridays.

There is currently no useable platform on the single track Okehampton line, so no services stop for this direction. However, the platform would need to be restored for Barnstaple trains, if the parallel single lines are restored to true double track working between Crediton and Colebrooke Junction. This would enable a few trains to stop at Yeoford for Okehampton, but probably instead of a Newton St. Cyres or Sampford Courtenay stop.

The station formerly operated as the junction and interchange point between the Okehampton and Barnstaple lines, but to keep the Okehampton service fairly fast it is suggested that Crediton continues to be used as the normal connecting station between the two routes.

PHO:2020.08.14 - Yeoford
A Barnstaple to Exeter service slows to check for passengers on 14th August 2020. The track on the right is for Okehampton and runs alongside the disused island platform. This is the platform which would need to be restored if this section is restored to normal double track operation.

Bow - to remain closed
Bow is about 15¼ miles from Exeter St Davids station (mile post 187 miles 62 chains), but there are only a few houses nearby and the village is 1¼ miles to the north on the A3072 Copplestone to Hatherleigh road. Of the 1,287 (ONS 2017) inhabitants of the parish around two thirds live within the actual village. Walking to the station would be along an unlit lane and without a pavement. In contrast, the bus service (Stagecoach 5A/B and for a short period Go Devon Bus 315/345) is accessible within the village on the main road. It provides an approximately hourly service to Exeter for much of the day, but unfortunately since June 2023 the 5A Hatherleigh service has stopped serving Exeter St. David's station. The 5B from Bideford still serves St. David's station with a 42 minute journey time from Bow.

MAP:Okehampton Line Stations
Sketch map to show the location of Bow, North Tawton and Sampford Courtenay in relation to the Okehampton line stations.

The station building at Bow like North Tawton is in private ownership, but additionally at Bow the old railway land around forms part of this and other property so making access and car parking provision a particular problem. The platform height is significantly low and a lot of work would be required to bring it up to the correct height. Given the poor location of Bow station, the access problems and the impact on overall train speeds and timing of Okehampton line trains the station is not recommended for reopening.

PHO:2020.08.18 - Bow Station
View of Bow station from the road. Unlike North Tawton there is no access to the former platform and both the station frontage and station house/building is in private occupation". With the former goods yard area occupied as well, there is no former railway land that could be used for parking.

PHO:2020.08.27 - Bow
Bow is situated some distance from its former railway, but does have a regular bus service from the stop seen in the picture. The entrance to station road is just visible on the right.

As an alternative Copplestone station is only 3 miles away and offers an hourly rail service into Exeter, but the station needs expanded parking for rail passengers. Bow and nearby villages have no late evening Monday to Saturday bus services and none on Sundays. Copplestone could be used as a bus/rail interchange point for new services to fill these gaps in the timetable.

If in the future Bow increases its population, or the bus service is reduced, provision of a new station could be reconsidered. In this case the former up platform on the north side of the line would best be restored and provided with a slightly more direct route to the village.

North Tawton – ideally trains every other hour, but may need to use Sampford Courtenay station instead for now plus the 5A/5B bus service.
North Tawton station is 18½ miles from Exeter St Davids (milepost 190 miles 72 chains) and should have a rail service. North Tawton is the largest of the settlements between Crediton and Okehampton and had an estimated parish population of 2,019 in 2017 (ONS). It ranks as a small town and is about 1 mile from the former railway station. The road to the station has a pavement, but no lighting. At the station the Railway Inn remains open for business. There is space for parking around the former station building and approach road, but some areas may be used by the Railway Inn and residents of the former station building. It might be necessary to use some areas of the former goods yard for parking if this station was reopened.

For visitors to North Tawton there is a town trail, the long distance Tarka Trail is close by at Newland Bridge and the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes lived in the town. Not far from North Tawton station is the original Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research at North Wyke (Rothamsted Research). Whiddon Down is just 5¼ miles away along the direct A3124 from North Tawton station making it easily accessible to parts of north Dartmoor. North Tawton would be Chagford’s nearest station at 10 miles compared to 22 miles to Exeter.

PHO:2020.10.11 - North Tawton
Left: North Tawton town centre. Right: St Peter’s Church, dating from the 13th Century, is the oldest existing building in North Tawton.

North Tawton was included as a reopening proposal in the A-Z of Rail Reopenings 1998 by the Railway Development Society. ISBN: 0 901283 13 4. Although around this time the bus service had been far less frequent.

The North Tawton Neighbourhood Plan supports the reinstatement of the railway between Okehampton and Exeter. Paragraph 43.3 states, ‘88% of respondents to the Neighbourhood Plan Questionnaire expressed support for the Okehampton to Exeter railway to reopen on a regular basis. 80% said they would use the railway for social reasons, 67% to connect to mainline train services, and 24% would use the train to travel to work.’

However, reopening North Tawton station is not straight forward due to 1980s road improvements imposing additional costs and complications. On the east side of the closed North Tawton station the railway crossed what was originally a minor class 3 road. It links the A30 trunk road at Whiddon Down with the A3072 Copplestone to Hatherleigh road at de Bathe Cross near North Tawton station. This was first upgraded for light traffic in 1978 and later at a cost of £1.17 million as a lorry road in 1985 involving reconstruction of the railway bridge (Number 591) for increased height. This became the B3219 and is now the A3124.

PHO:2020.08.27 - Bridge 591 North Tawton
The original bridge (number 591) was of iron deck type and too low for lorry traffic. It was raised (probably in 1985) as the final part of upgrading this road which links North Tawton at de Bathe Cross with the A30 trunk road at Whiddon Down. This view south towards Whiddon Down shows the new bridge and is single track. The original lower bridge carried double track and the two platforms extended across it to the east (left on photo).

From west to east the railway was built on a gradient climbing at 1 in 80, but with a safer 1 in 264 through the actual station. The platforms crossed Bridge 591 for a short distance, but were on the restart of the 1 in 80 gradient eastward to Halse Moor. The subsequent height increase for Bridge 591 was achieved by the railway continuing to climb steeply through the station, but with the disadvantage that the platform surfaces are now unusable and are about 2 or more feet below rail level as they near the modern bridge 591.

PHO:2020.08.27 - North Tawton
North Tawton up platform viewed back towards Okehampton. The track here is seen above platform level as it climbs eastward to pass over the new Bridge 591. Note that the old bull head track shown here has now been replaced with new continuously welded rail on concrete sleepers.

The new height of Bridge 591 will have lessened the track gradient on the east side of the road from the original 1 in 80. A length of level line sufficient for a 5 coach train may well be possible here and linked back across the A3124 by footbridge to the old station approach road and near the Railway Inn.

Reopening North Tawton station should be considered in the future if reopened lines west of Okehampton bring more trains onto the Dartmoor line to serve it. North Tawton shares the same bus service as Bow and both these places, plus Sampford Courtenay, would benefit if the 5A Hatherleigh service could be restored to run via Exeter St. David's station. In addition stopping some trains at Sampford Courtenay station, which has a useable platform, would help to establish the level of demand for rail services in the area for those able to access the station by car or cycle.

PHO:2020.08.27 - North Tawton goods yard
View into the former goods yard area at North Tawton station.

Sampford Courtenay – some trains should stop by request

Sampford Courtenay village is served Mondays to Saturdays approximately every 2 hours by Stagecoach service 5A between Okehampton, Hatherleigh, Crediton and Exeter, The whole parish of Sampford Courtenay, including Honeychurch in the north, only had an estimated population of 629 in 2017 (ONS). The actual village recorded around 200 of the parish residents and they would be 1½ to 2 miles from Sampford Courtenay station along an isolated country road with no pavement or lighting beyond the first and last houses. Around the station, which is located at Belstone Corner, there are around 100 residents living within ¼ mile. The ‘Sampford Courtenay Parish Survey Report 2019’ (32% return from 250 dwellings) showed that only 1% of respondents would use the train daily, but 14% weekly and 77% infrequently.

Given this data usage of the station might be too low to justify a full weekday service, but Sampford Courtenay parish council are supporting reopening of the station. See the note from the parish council and the results of the more recent survey.

Sampford Courtenay station is 21¼ miles from Exeter St Davids (milepost 193 miles 58 chains). The station was upgraded in 2002 for a 3 coach length and has been served by the summer Sunday trains running for the last time in 2019. As there are no buses in the area on Sundays, it is suggested that 2 morning trains to Exeter stop by request to pick up on Sundays and slightly more set down by request from Exeter. In addition some request stops should also be added to the weekday service and with an emphasis on times where there are no buses running. The journey time by train to Exeter St. Davids would be 35 minutes or less compared to around 1 hour on the bus. With further upgraded track the journey from Sampford Courtenay station to Exeter St. David’s station could drop well below 30 minutes if only calling at Crediton.

Sampford Courtenay station would need to be given lighting and a platform shelter. Of those responding to the 2019 Sampford Courtney survey, 86% would want to go by vehicle to the station and the remainder walking. There is enough land outside the station for around 20 to 25 cars to park and for a short bus lay-by. For safe access to and from the car park the main road may need a speed restriction and or warning sign of the station entrance. The former goods yard that might have been used for additional car parking is occupied by industrial units and since January 2021 used by a specialist bed manufacturer. Access to the old goods yard cuts across some of the potential parking area in front of the station, so a new entrance might best be made for these premises.

PHO:2020.08.27 - Sampford Courtenay platform - 1
View of restored, but now neglected Sampford Courtenay station platform.

PHO:2020.08.27 - Sampford Courtenay car park
''This small area might park up to 20 to 25 cars. The former goods yard behind is in private industrial use and since January 2021 by a specialist bed manufacturer.

Okehampton East Parkway (Exeter Road) – all or many trains to stop

Before reaching the main Okehampton station, trains from the Exeter direction pass under the Exeter Road at bridge number 606 (the old A30 now B3260). In the 1950s the eastern edge of Okehampton was still ¾ mile away and only a little closer at the time of the 1972 closure of the line. Since then Okehampton has grown eastward, so that the nearest houses are now only ⅛ of a mile from the railway. The Exeter Road Industrial estate has grown up alongside the railway and has now started to surround it. A new station at this location has been suggested by many, including Railfuture as long ago as 2000.

Now, even more houses are planned nearby. These would be built on farmland just to the north of the Exeter Road Industrial Estate and extending across the Crediton Road. The joint Plymouth, South Hams and West Devon Local Plan, adopted in 2019, has allocated land for 775 new homes (planning references 01089/2013 and 2731/15/OPA). Also to the east of the railway 42,700 square meters of land for employment floor space.

PHO:2018.06.12 - Okehampton expansion
These fields as seen in June 2012 are destined to be filled with new housing. The view is looking towards Abbeyford Woods and the photograph is taken from one of the new roads only a few minutes walk from the proposed Okehampton East Parkway station. The mast which can be seen in the distance, and also in the next picture, provides Freeview television for Okehampton and radio over a wider area.

Reasons for locating a new station on Exeter Road include the close proximity of the new residential areas, those planned, plus easy access off the A30 trunk road from both west and east. There is land that could be used for car parking and a possible plan was drawn up by local campaigners and appeared in the Okehampton Times: Wednesday, 20 September 2017. The plan showed a car park with around 250 spaces, but the platform appeared to be on the 1 in 88 gradient leading down to Sampford Courtenay.

Instead the new station platform should be located a little further south, as the gradient is thought to level off at a point just north of the accommodation bridge number 605. If correct then there should be an 11 coach length on the level with the new platform extending through to the Exeter Road overbridge (number 606). This would also enable there to be a pedestrian link up to the Exeter road and for passengers to connect with any buses passing this point.

PHO:2018.11.19 - Okehampton East
Viewed from the Belstone direction on Dartmoor, the eastward growth of Okehampton along the Exeter Road can be clearly seen. From left to right the railway is running out of sight in cutting between Okehampton station and the potential Okehampton Parkway on Exeter Road, but marked but by the long line of trees. The top of bridge 606 is just visible on the right where the B3260 (old A30) crosses the line. On the north side of the road bridge there is a parallel pedestrian bridge, just visible in the picture, as it is painted bright blue. To the left (west towards the town centre) can be seen the buildings of the Exeter Road industrial estate, followed by the first houses. Railfuture is suggesting that there should be pedestrian access to the new station platform and bus stops in the vicinity of Bridge 606.

The new station platform would be on a curve of about 600 m radius (30 chains), but this is unavoidable. The curvature increases the stepping distance between platform and train and would need special permission to be built. However, there are numerous examples of existing stations with this curvature or even tighter including Bere Alston (further on to Plymouth), Saltash and St. Germans in Cornwall.

PHO:2018.06.12 - Okehampton East from BR606 PHO:2018.06.12 - Okehampton East from BR605n
Suggested site for Okehampton Parkway station platform. The left hand picture is a view north from the pedestrian bridge alongside the old A30 bridge 606. Here there could be a path down to the platform. The platform would then continue under the accommodation bridge number 605 from which the right hand picture is taken. At this point the line is still thought to be level where it is alongside the stagnant water (right/east side of track). From here the line drops at 1 in 88 towards Sampford Courtenay and so the station platform should not be located any further north than here. Bridge 605 might itself be used for access between the station platform and parking on the east side of the railway.

Okehampton – all trains to stop

Okehampton station is 25 miles from Exeter St Davids station (mile post 197 miles 33 chains) and is situated high up on the south side of the town on the edge of Dartmoor. The town centre was located directly on the A30 London to Penzance road until the town’s bypass opened in 1989.

PHO:2020.09.10 - Okehampton town old A30
Okehampton centre on the main A30 London to Penzance road until bypassed in 1989.

Okehampton is small town, but with a growing population that reached an estimated 7,057 in 2017 (ONS). This is about the same size as Totnes (7,903 in 2017) and there are other similarities, and not just that they both have castles. Okehampton like Totnes is midway on an Exeter to Plymouth railway line. Exeter to Totnes is 28¾ miles and only a few miles futher than the 25 miles from Exeter to Okehampton. Totnes is 23¼ from Plymouth and Okehampton 32⅞ miles.

The catchment area for Okehampton includes Hatherleigh, Holsworthy and North Cornwall places such as Bude, Launceston and Camelford. In comparison Totnes covers much of the South Hams including Kingsbridge, Salcombe, Dartmouth, parts of south Torbay and Buckfastleigh. Totnes recorded 696,226 rail passengers at its station in 2018-2019 (Entry and Exit figure from the Office of the Rail Regulator) and this could be used to indicate a possible upper annual figure for Okehampton. However, only if Okehampton achieved a similar service level of around 2 trains per hour. Axminster has a similar population to Okehampton at 7,452 (2017 ONS estimate), it is 27¾ miles from Exeter and also serves a wider catchment area (Seaton, Lyme Regis, Bridport and Chard). One difference is that Axminster only has around one train per hour and this could explain the lower entry and exit figure which was 384,220 for the period 2018-2019. Okehampton could be expected to achieve a usage figure in between that of Totnes and Axminster.

The station at Okehampton survived the rail closures and helped by the summer Sunday rail service and heritage support, it is now a refurbished complete and ready to use station. It has a canopy over the main platform (number 3), buffet and toilets. There is a second platform (number 2) so making this a convenient place to pass trains, should the railway remain as mainly single track. A second footbridge suitable for disabled access is needed for access to platform 2. Both these platforms are of 6 coach length, but could be extended at the east/Exeter end of the station.

View of the main station platform at Okehampton - which is number 3 on the up side of line. Here viewed in the Tavistock and Plymouth direction on 6th May 2023.

Platform 1 is behind the station and was formerly often used for connecting services running on the now closed lines to North Cornwall. Reinstatement of this 3rd line could become important for holding trains, if the route remains single track and is being used for services diverted from the Dawlish route. For this track reinstatement to be possible, the huts of an adjacent cycle hire business would need to be moved slightly to provide adequate clearance.

PHO:2020.09.10 - Okehampton platform 1 & Goods
View behind the station showing the goods shed now in use as the Youth Hostel. Reinstatement of the platform 1 loop would need to run alongside, as it always did, on the left hand side.

On former railway land at Okehampton station 150 car parking spaces were thought possible on the north side, which is almost as many as Totnes with 20 short stay and 145 ordinary. However, as built for the reopening there are only 75 spaces. Of these 16 are on the station approach road and close to the main station building 4 disabled spaces. In the main car park on the former loco depot there are 55 spaces. In this main car park more spaces at right angles to the access road, and use of the full area close to the new radio mast, would have increased the number here by 30. Of the other potential 45 spaces these are lost due to better provision for buses. Twenty six fewer spaces are accounted for by a large bus turning circle instead of the former reversing bay and 4 less spaces, as there are two rather than one bus waiting areas. Also parking is only on one side of the station approach road.

The car park shown here was the site of the locomotive depot, but today provides space to park 55 cars. Viewed after upgrade and resurfacing.

''A busy scene with passengers coming and going on the Okehampton station approach. Behind the camera is the main station building with 2 bus waiting areas and 3 taxi spaces. Further down the approach road, as partly seen here, are16 ordinary car parking spaces."

Okehampton to Tavistock.

Looking towards Tavistock from Okehampton station platform 3. The modern track changes to the old rails still linking Meldon Quarry and then stops just before the Meldon viaduct.

(This page to be continued.)

See also:
The case for Okehampton - Railfuture article by Philip Shelton, 2014

Rural reconnections: the social benefits of rail reopening - Railfuture article by Chris Page, 2015.

Re-opening Tavistock-Okehampton: why, when and how - Greengauge 21, March 2019

The case for Okehampton reopening - RAIL, November 2019.

Which lines could return on the former West Devon railway network? - May 2023 video. Note especially Devon County Council's Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, Cllr. Andrea Davis, at 00:47-01:14 and 01:42-02:41.

TavyRail - A group including rail professionals, academics & stakeholders focused on providing objective information for the Northern and Southern Dartmoor Rail Route debate.

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