The Transport Secretary is under renewed pressure to reopen an alternative rail link for the South West peninsula through Okehampton and Tavistock.
Campaigners are calling on Chris Grayling MP to reverse some of the cuts made to the smaller railway line across the country, including the line between Plymouth and
The line would provide a much needed back-up to the storm-hit main line through Dawlish and would give a huge boost to the economy of West Devon and North Cornwall.
The Campaign for Better Transport has written to Mr Grayling urging him to introduce a new fund to pay for the opening of additional railway lines and stations.
Michael Ireland, vice-chairman of the OkeRail Forum, said Okehampton had suffered badly from the end of passenger services, which came on the heels of the cattle market closing.
He said: “From an employment point of view it depressed the town for 25 years. And it’s not just about Okehampton. The area to the north and west is a rail desert.”
OkeRail Forum and community interest company are working to extend an existing Sunday service to Exeter to seven days a week. They are also aiming to build a new parkway station just off the A30 to serve the area’s commuters.
“There are important strategic reasons to get the Okehampton line up and running because of the defence sector in Plymouth,” Dr Ireland said. “It wouldn’t affect South Devon. We want to make it complementary and it shouldn’t be seen as a threat.”
During the general election campaign in May, Mr Grayling announced the plan to reintroduce a trial commuter service between Okehampton and Exeter.
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.
Mr Ireland said they were keen to “hold Mr Grayling’s feet to the fire” to keep his election promises. In the late 19th century, London and South Western Railway ran services from Plymouth to London, through Bere Alston, Tavistock and Okehampton.
Okehampton survived the Beeching axe, but lost its passenger services from 1972. The line survived for freight from nearby Meldon quarry.
Regular services continue from Plymouth to Bere Alston, and plans to reconnect the line from Bere Alston to Tavistock are under development.