Last month, I made the rather strange decision of putting myself through the Devon Coast to Coast cycle ride – a route of 102 miles from Ilfracombe to Plymouth. I know, I know – I must be mad.
Halfway through, other than thinking about whether it would be a heart attack or a stroke that would get me first, I realised just how poor our Devon railway links really are.
After cycling out of Ilfracombe and past Barnstaple, it struck me that, until we get to Plymouth, there is no regular railway service available to us in case of any reason we would need to get home.
It didn’t bother me too much, as I thought I wouldn’t need it anyway. However, when we got to Okehampton, my brother wasn’t feeling 100% and we realised, other than getting a taxi or managing to somehow squeeze your bike on the X64, there was no way he could get back home to Newton Abbot.
While this may be somewhat of a unique anecdote, it did make me realise just how much the new investment in the Plymouth to Exeter (via Okehampton and Tavistock) is needed. Not just for me and my bike – but for commuters and tourists as well.
Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, during the general election campaign in May, announced the plan to reintroduce a trial commuter service between Okehampton and Exeter and Groundworks for a 300-space car park have been carried out already on Devon County Council land for an “Okehampton Parkway” station just two minutes from the A30.
Also, OkeRAIL Forum are working to extend an existing Sunday service to Exeter to seven days a week.
But this needs to go further. Cuts need to be reversed for the link linking Plymouth to Okehampton, as well.
This could benefit the region in so many different ways by bringing jobs to the area and allowing tourists, locals and commuters to get between Plymouth, Tavistock, Okehampton and Exeter with considerably more ease and convenience.