While welcoming the Government go-ahead for funding of the reinstatement of the line, the campaigners understand scepticism of the general public that the project they have worked so hard to achieve, might well not happen or at best be long delayed.
Richard Searight, chair of TaviRAIL pressure group, said: “This is fantastic news that the Government has promised funding for the reinstatement of the line cut by Beeching. We and the country council have worked so hard to convince ministers and MPs that Tavistock and the wider area needs vastly improved transport links. The Okehampton line to Exeter showed the way with hundreds using it every week.
“We don’t yet have a deinite start or completion date for the line to be re-laid and trains to run between the existing line between Plymouth and Bere Alston and then on the replacement track to Tavistock. But we have a rough idea and that will guide us to urge the key stakeholders to come up with a definite timetable. That’s where we come in as a pressure group, for round two.
“Now is a critical time, we must have all the project planning documents rubber-stamped by, if not well before, the next general election. That’s our timetable, in order to keep Network Rail and transport ministers on track. The county council planners have said the business case needs completing with more detail and if that is done then the project could start in 2025 or 2026. Optimsitically, therefore, we could have trains running between Tavistock and Plymouth by 2027/2028. These projects have a habit of over running on time and cost and I understand why the average person might be sceptical it will happen at all. But this is why we as a pressure group need to be vigilant and keep urging the people at Network Rail and the Department of Transport to go forward.”
The county council has suggested further ‘red tape’ as Richard puts it, needs completing in the form of a development consent order, before work begins. Richard is seeking clarity on what aspects of the business plan need completing and whether that is indeed the final pre-planning stage. He also wants to know if the new Okehampton to Exeter rail reinstatment required a development consent order. He is planning on calling a public meeting in March in Tavistock with key stakeholders, including the county council and Sir Geoffrey Cox, Torridge and West Devon MP, to rally public support and explain the way forward.
Richard said: “It’s too easy to think of negative reason why projects such as this wiull sink into the sand and disappear. but it is realistic and feasible to have trains running by 2027 or 2028. It happened with OkeRail. We and the public just have to keep the pressure on.”