Additional £10 million confirmed for rail resilience in South West

Deputy leader of Plymouth City Council has today welcomed the Government announcment of £10 million for rail resilience in the South West.

Councillor Patrick Nicholson said: “Whilst it is reassuring that Network Rail will be able to continue to develop plans into strengthening resilience of the rail line at Dawlish, these are still only plans.

“This is a timely announcement as Network Rail have just started consulting with stakeholders on options and proposals to improve resilience along this stretch of the railway.

“We will continue to work with the Peninsula Rail Task Force to continue to press Government for the funding to deliver the works as the line – stunning though it is – still remains vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather incidents.”

The government confirmed an additional £10 million to help strengthen the resilience of the railway line from Exeter to Newton Abbot via Dawlish.

The funding comes as Network Rail publish a report which sets out their proposals for strengthening the route, which was significantly damaged by extreme weather in the winter of 2014.

A section of the sea wall was washed away, leaving the tracks hanging in space, and there was also a major landslip on the cliffs at Teignmouth while the line was closed. The closure of the line was estimated to cost the South West economy more than £1 billion pounds.

The funding is for Network Rail to carry out further planning for how to keep the track better protected from extreme weather.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “It is vital that we do all we can to prepare our transport system for extreme weather. Never has the impact of nature been better demonstrated than at Dawlish and it is important that we make our railways strong enough to weather any storm. The further funding we have today announced will help to make sure that this vital link remains open.”

In their report Network Rail identify three priority areas where action is needed to prevent the main Exeter to Plymouth railway line being blocked by further extreme weather. These are:
• the risk of landslip from the steep cliffs between Teignmouth and Parson’s Tunnel which would block the main Exeter to Plymouth railway line
• rock falls from the cliffs above the Parson’s Tunnel north entrance
• flooding from the sea of the railway and the road at Marine Parade between Dawlish station and Kennaway Tunnel

The £10 million funding will allow Network Rail to continue their development work on mitigation against these risks from 2017, when the current funding comes to an end.

Mark Langman, Network Rail’s managing director for the Western route said: “Keeping the South West connected to the rest of the country by rail is vital to the economy of the region.

“We very much welcome the additional £10 million in funds announced today to help us build on the work we’ve already done to prevent this crucial line being blocked in the case of extreme weather.”