CENTRAL DEVON MP Mel Stride met with Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling MP in Westminster today (02/02/17) to discuss Government investment in a regular passenger rail service between Okehampton and Exeter via Crediton. Mr Stride has supported local campaigners by keeping the issue firmly on the Government’s radar, arguing the service would be a huge boost to the local economies of both Okehampton and Crediton, provide a valuable service to thousands of residents in West Devon who are up to 20 miles away from their nearest station and reduce traffic pollution.
Mr Stride said:
“Clearly there is a lot of work to be undertaken to introduce a regular service but I was heartened that the Secretary of State was open to the possibility of establishing a regular service between Okehampton and Exeter and that his department will look seriously at an early trial service, before the current franchise is due for renewal in 2020. A successful trial would then strengthen the case for a full service as part of the new Franchise agreement.”
Devon County Councillor Kevin Ball, one of the main organisers of a one-off ‘Spring Special’ train in March from Okehampton to Paddington, only stopping at Crediton and Exeter St David’s, to promote the return of a permanent service said:
“With minimal investment a trial could be undertaken, which I have no doubt would be a big success. Combined with the strong demand for the train to London on the 18th March and the success of our busy Sunday Rover service, hopefully the case for a regular service will be very strong.”
Cllr. Mike Davies, Chairman of OkeRail – the organisation which has brought together campaign groups, local councils and businesses to push for the service added:
“This is a hugely significant step forward and we are very grateful to Mel for securing the meeting and pressing the case so vigorously right at the very top of government.”
The Transport Department is currently considering the Peninsula Rail Task Force (PRTF) 20-year plan ‘Closing the Gap’, which argues that population growth in the Okehampton area and 100% passenger growth on the Tarka Line running from Exeter to Mid and North Devon – the nearest comparable service – demonstrates the need for and benefits of Government investment.
Photo: Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling with Central Devon MP Mel Stride pledging to seriously consider supporting a trial service between Okehampton and Exeter via Crediton.