DAILY passenger trains will return to a British line for the first time in 49 years from November 20 following a £40m project to rebuild the railway.

Great Western Railway (GWR) will initially operate a train every two hours on the Exeter - Okehampton line, before the service is increased to an hourly frequency next year.

The 29.7km section of line between Crediton and Okehampton was closed to regular passenger services in 1972, but continued to be used for freight trains until 1997 when a Summer Sunday service began operating.

British infrastructure manager Network Rail (NR) worked with GWR and the Department for Transport on the project, which was completed in nine months and £10m under budget. Prior to funding being agreed GWR identified suitable rolling stock and developed a timetable with NR.

NR laid 17km of new track, installed 24,000 concrete sleepers and 29,000 tonnes of ballast. Repairs have been completed on 21 structures including four bridges. Level crossing improvements have been undertaken, while GSM-R has been installed and drainage works carried out.

Reopening the line for daily trains was made possible through funding from the British government’s Restoring Your Railway programme, while the reopening project also benefitted from the application of Rail Project Speed which aims to change the way schemes have been carried out in the past, halve the time required and reduce costs.

“Improving transport links is essential to levelling up and spreading opportunity across the country,” says British prime minister Mr Boris Johnson.

“This has been a key aspiration for the community and the rail industry for some time and today is a significant day for everyone who has been involved,” says GWR managing director Mr Mark Hopwood on the official launch of the line on November 17.

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