Rail slip hits first Okehampton to London train for 50 years

Train leaving Okehampton
Image caption The train had been chartered from GWR for the one-off journey

A historic train journey had to be abandoned minutes after setting off when the train slipped on the rails.

The Royal Oke was due to be the first direct train from Okehampton to London Paddington in 50 years.

The route has been proposed by campaigners as an alternative to the Dawlish line which is frequently closed by high tides and storm waves.

Shortly after leaving Okehampton the 500 passengers were transferred to a different train at Exeter.

'Little blip'

The charter train had been organised by a group of volunteers in the OkeRAIL forum and Okerail CIC.

Its Chairman Mike Davies said the technical problems were "disappointing".

"The majority of people on the train are quite content", he added, "but we have had to change trains we haven't got enough seats for everyone."

Central Devon MP Mel Stride, who is also on the train, described the accident as a "little blip on a very long road".

Image caption Five hundred people bought tickets for the special service

The group is hoping to raise awareness of the alternative line which bypasses the vulnerable Dawlish route.

That track was washed away by winter storms in 2014, leaving Cornwall and much of Devon cut off from the rest of the country.

The repairs took several weeks, and cost more than £35m.

Image copyright Steve Briers
Image caption Rail campaigners say the Okehampton route is more resilient than the Dawlish line

GWR which owns the train said the damage was caused by 'poor railhead conditions'.

The OkeRAIL Forum says it has been reassured that the return journey from London Paddington direct to Okehampton will still go ahead.

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