The celebration along with a 2nd birthday cake was organised by the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership (DCRP) in partnership with Great Western Railway, and local rail support group Okerail, and was attended by members from the local community together with the Mayors of Okehampton, Cllr Allenton Fisher West Devon, Cllr Lynn Daniels; the Dartmoor Railway Association; Network Rail; and other organisations who supported the line's reopening.
As a result of the line's success, the Government has committed to providing £13.4m from the Levelling Up Fund for an extra station, Okehampton Parkway, close to the A30, and, subject to an updated business case, it has also committed to provides funds to complete the reopening of the Tavistock to Plymouth line.
Okehampton Station has won several awards since it reopened, and at the recent National Rail Awards was awarded “Small Station of the Year”. The station is also on a shortlist for the forthcoming National Railway Heritage Awards.
The line was relaid in just nine months and at £10m less than the budgeted cost. Its use has far exceeded expectations, with over 550,000 passenger journeys having been made on the line since it reopened. Trains run hourly seven days a week, and connecting bus services provide links from Okehampton station to the wider area including Tavistock, Launceston, Bude, and Holsworthy.
Matt Barnes, GWR Head of Strategic Service Development, said: “It has been two years since we and our partners reopened the Dartmoor Line.
“This anniversary, with more than half a million journeys now made, is testament to the hard work of so many who campaigned for the line's reinstatement, and the benefits of investing in local transport.
“The continued demand shows just how important good rail connections are for the community, and the economies, they serve.”
The Dartmoor Line was the first line to be reopened under the Government's Restoring Your Railway programme with more than £40 million being invested by the Government.
Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: “The re-opening of the Dartmoor Line was made possible through Government investment and two years on since services resumed, it's proved to be a huge success, providing vital links for passengers in the area.
“With over half a million journeys now made, it's clear how crucial the line is to the community, residents and businesses and by restoring our lost railways, we can help drive tourism and encourage investment across our regions.”
Devon County Council has long supported the Dartmoor Line, including being key partners in both the restoration of the station in the mid-1990s and funding the Summer Sunday service which ran from 1997 to 2019. The county council is leading the project to put Tavistock back on the rail network.
Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, said: “Two years have flown by since the Dartmoor Line reopened and in that time the passenger numbers have been nothing short of incredible. All of the partners involved in reinstating the line between Okehampton and Exeter recognised how important these rail services would be, but their popularity is over and above what anyone predicted.
“The Devon County Council funded integrated bus service 118 to and from Okehampton Station is also ensuring that the benefits of the Dartmoor Line have a much wider impact as well, which is great news for our local economy.”
Okehampton Cllr Dr Michael Ireland, Chair of OkeRail and an Okehampton town councillor was a leading campaigner for the reopening for many years and organised a number of surveys, events and passenger counts on the then Summer Sunday service to help make the case for the full reopening. He has worked hard since on making the most of the new service to the benefit of the town and wider area.
Dr Ireland said: “The huge success of the Dartmoor Line is a great delight to us all. I am very proud of the role I and other local people and organisations such as OkeRail and the Dartmoor Railway Association have played in both getting the line reopened and making it such an asset to the town and the wider area it serves.”