Unemployed Exeter residents could find work in Cullompton if the town’s railway station is rebuilt, a local MP has claimed.
Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk
Liberal Democrat Richard Foord, whose Tiverton & Honiton constituency includes Cullompton, made the case for restoring the station during a debate in parliament on Tuesday [24 January].
Cullompton station closed in 1964, part of the now-infamous Beeching axe that slashed the rail network in Britain. However, work is now underway on bringing the station back to its former site by the M5 almost 60 years later.
The government awarded £5 million of business funding towards restoring Cullompton and Wellington stations in 2021. Following further work from local councils, the lead role for the project was handed over to Network Rail last year.
It is hoped the first passengers could board trains at Cullompton again in May 2025.
Nearby Okehampton station was the first beneficiary of the the government’s ‘restoring your railway fund’ – reopening in 2021 to great success. Mr Foord hopes Cullompton “will see the same railway renaissance as Okehampton has in the past couple of years.”
Outlining how there are “some parallels” between the two towns, he said: “Okehampton and Cullompton are both within commuting distance of Exeter and both have slightly more than 10,000 people currently living in and around each town.”
Mr Foord added: “It is a town with a tight labour market and currently has vacancies across a range of sectors, including retail, manufacturing and social care. In Cullompton, fewer than two in 100 people are unemployed, in contrast to the neighbouring city of Exeter, where unemployment is greater than three per cent.
“There are thousands of people in Exeter who are registered unemployed and looking for work who would be able to find jobs in Cullompton were they able to commute there.”
Cullompton is likely to see significant growth in the coming years, with plans afoot for a Culm Garden Village which Mr Foord says will expand the town “by more than 5,000 houses and perhaps an additional 12,000 residents.”
Stressing the importance of a new station, he explained: “We already have an air quality management area designation in the town of Cullompton; having a station in the heart of the town should serve to reduce traffic on the congested B3181.”
Railways minister Huw Merriman (Conservative) was then invited to visit the old Cullompton station site “to see how little work would be required to restore the station to its former glory and to transform a very friendly part of Devon into an environmentally friendly one.”
Mr Merriman responded by saying the Wellington and Cullompton project is “progressing to a full business case, and a decision will be made once that has been finalised.”