Restoring the Dartmoor Railway Line

United Kingdom

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For the first time in nearly 50 years, in November 2021 regular passenger services started on the Dartmoor Railway Line, connecting Okehampton to Exeter. This project was the first railway reopening under the UK government’s ‘Restoring Your Railway’ programme aimed at bringing old railway lines and stations back into service. The scheme was developed as a result of a campaign led by local supporters and stakeholders.

In order to restore and revive the 20-mile railway line AECOM delivered a range of services, deploying its multidisciplinary team to support Network Rail in the construction and local authorities in the planning process. As a result, an 11-mile stretch of line was transformed in just nine months and completed under budget.

Collaboration and teamwork

Starting in February 2021, the project was implemented using the Network Rail PACE approach and moved quickly through from feasibility to detailed design, enabling implementation of the works in April 2021 – a move from concept to construction in just 8 weeks.

In order to restore the line, our team of experts collaborated closely with the client and stakeholders, producing the design that allowed the laying of 11 miles of new track, 29,000 tonnes of ballast and of 24,000 concrete sleepers in just 20 days.

Connecting communities

The reintroduction of the service benefits more than 10,000 residents in and around Okehampton, as well as bringing local towns and villages much closer to the rail network and providing a new option for people commuting to Exeter. This route provides visitors an opportunity to explore Dartmoor and offers regional links for local commuters. Local businesses and the tourism sector will also benefit from this route while those who live in the area will have greater access to education and employment opportunities.

Multidisciplinary rail engineering

Our works to deliver the new line included topographical surveys, track condition and gauge clearance assessment, including recommending a series of safety improvements protecting trains and passengers.

We made underline structure assessments and carried out bridge strengthening design, to enable repairs to 21 structures along the route – including four bridges – to be carried out. Other infrastructure work included level crossing improvements and the installation of railway communications equipment. Initial vegetation clearance, fencing installation and earth and drainage works were also carried out.

Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s route managing director, said: “We’re delighted that we’ve reopened this much needed railway line for passenger services in just 9 months and ahead of schedule. Our team has worked incredibly hard alongside our project partners Great Western Railway, Devon County Council, Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership and the local community to ensure this railway is ready to open”.