At the Community Rail Awards held in Southampton on Thursday, 9th December, the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, GWR, and Network Rail won the award in the ‘Best Communications' category.
Coincidentally, the award came in the same week that weekend trains once again began running direct to and from Exeter Central.
Judges praised the official DartmoorLine.com website which provides detailed travel information. The website also provides unique behind-the-scenes footage of the work to restore the line, as well as recording how Network Rail achieved record-breaking efforts to lay 11 miles of new track in just under four weeks. It also looks back at the history of the line and the vital contribution of OkeRail, the Dartmoor Railway Association, and others, and so far has been visited by over 75,000 people. The Dartmoor Line was the first line to reopen as part of the government's Restoring Your Railway initiative.
In the run-up to the reopening, GWR led campaigns requesting people's memories of the line's 1972 closure and ran a public competition to design the line's logo – won by Okehampton teenager Tom Watts. The local community came together in October with a programme of events to mark the 150th anniversary of the railway arriving in Okehampton back in 1871.
Dartmoor Line website, featuring artwork from the award-winning Becky Bettesworth
Welcoming the award, Richard Burningham, Manager of the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, said “Right from the start GWR, Network Rail and ourselves have been committed to bringing the local community with us on this fantastic journey.
“To reopen the line after nearly 50 years and see people embracing their railway so whole-heartedly has been brilliant.”
GWR Head of Communications Dan Panes said “This success is just reward for a superb team effort. The communications team for this project were drawn from GWR and our partners at Network Rail and the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, and through this we were able to deliver a series of outstanding comms events to promote the restoration and reopening of the Dartmoor Line.
“This culminated in a launch event at Okehampton Station (pictured below) which proved a roaring success, uniting the community and leading the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Grant Shapps, to describe it as his proudest day in post. You can get no better seal of approval than that.”
Great Western Railway Managing Director Mark Hopwood said “We were especially pleased to attend the Community Rail Awards and thrilled to have won the ‘Best Communications' category for our part in helping to promote the reopening of the Dartmoor Line.
“GWR has ten Community Rail Partnerships on our network, covering some of the UK's key holiday routes, such as Devon and Cornwall, South and West Wales, Dorset, the West of England, and the Cotswolds.
“We are very proud of the work they do. They have great local knowledge and I know that they all work incredibly hard, inspiring sustainable improvements to their community and the local economy.”
Christian Irwin, industry programme director at Network Rail, said “We are delighted to have won this award alongside GWR and the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership and it's testament to our collective commitment to involving the community every step of the way.
“To see the line now reopened after almost 50 years is incredible and it is all thanks to the close working between everyone involved.”