Dartmoor Line wins national award

Partners receive Community Rail Award on 9th December 2021
Dartmoor Line partners receive the award on 9th December from hosts Jools Townsend (Community Rail Network - left), Mark Hopwood (GWR, second from right) and Claire Mann (South Western Railway, right)

The Dartmoor Line has been recognised with a national award in the same week that weekend trains began running direct to and from Exeter Central.

At the national Community Rail Awards, held in Southampton on Thursday 9th December, the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, GWR and Network Rail won the ‘Best Communications’ category for their work to inform people about the reopening of the Okehampton-Exeter line and to involve the community.

Judges praised the official DartmoorLine.com website which provides detailed travel information as well as offering unique behind-the-scenes footage of the work to restore the line – including videos of Network Rail’s record-breaking efforts to lay 11 miles of new track in just under four weeks. The website – which has been visited by more than 75,000 people – also looks back at the history of the line and the vital contribution of OkeRail, the Dartmoor Railway Association and others.

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
Dartmoor Line logo with its designer Tom Watts
Tom Watts, designer of the Dartmoor Line logo
Community celebrates 150th anniversary of Okehampton's railway
Community celebrates 150th anniversary of Okehampton’s railway

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.”

Celebrating at Okehampton station
L-R: Sir Peter Hendy (Chair, Network Rail), Mark Hopwood (Managing Director, GWR), Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Cllr Andrea Davis (Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, Devon County Council)

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.”

More great news
The award coincides with the arrival of the line’s new timetable (PDF), which provides direct trains to and from Exeter Central seven days a week. As of last Sunday (12th December), most trains will now call at both Exeter Central and Exeter St David’s at weekends as well as on weekdays.

Exeter Central station at Christmas
Exeter Central station in the run-up to Christmas

In other positive developments, the 118 Rail Link bus (Okehampton station – Okehampton West St – Lydford – Brentor – Tavistock) will also now run seven days a week (look up bus times | live tracker map | PDF timetable), calling at Okehampton station timed to meet trains. The Rail Link bus service is financially supported by Devon County Council.

And looking further ahead, plans are afoot to open Okehampton’s station building next year, including cafe, Dartmoor National Park visitor centre, heritage-style waiting room and more.

The Dartmoor Line was the first line to reopen as part of the government’s Restoring Your Railway initiative.