Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, has announced that the rail lines closed during the infamous 1960s cuts are under discussion to be reopened.
Mr Grayling said he wants to identify which routes would boost the economy, encourage house-building and ease overcrowding. The most promising part of the announcement was that the route from Okehampton to Exeter has been included in the proposal. The route could provide a vital alternative to the Dawlish line – which closes during storms and high tides.
The Dartmoor Railway Association has been running ‘Sunday Rover’ services on the line during the summer. If reopened the route would run a full-time service and could be followed by the reopening of routes south from Okehampton through Tavistock to Plymouth.
Mr Grayling said: “The last few years have seen massive growth on Britain’s railways. This industry has reversed decades of decline under British Rail, delivered new investment and new trains, and doubled the number of passengers.
“But now we need to build on that success by building a new model for the 2020s and beyond, one more able to deal with the huge rise in passenger numbers and the challenges of an increasingly congested network.
“Rail passengers deserve a more reliable, more efficient service and I will deliver it by ending the one-size-fits-all approach of franchising and bringing closer together the best of the public and private sector.”
Thousands of stations and hundreds of branch lines were closed between 1964 and 1970 in the wake of a report by British Railways chairman Dr Richard Beeching.
A new development programme will identify opportunities to restore capacity which offers good value for money.
Proposals being discussed include suburban lines around Bristol, a freight route that runs through central Birmingham, the line from Okehampton to Exeter and from Blyth to Ashington in County Durham.