MPs have called on ministers to provide more clarity on plans to make rail links into Devon and Cornwall more resilient and how they will support a transport strategy for the South West.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee has published a report on Transport infrastructure in the South West, which also casts doubt on Highways England’s currently unfunded plans for a tunnel for the A303 at Stonehenge.
The report discloses that, beyond the £80m scheme focused on the sea wall at Dawlish, funding for substantive works to improve the resilience of the rail mainline between Exeter and Teignmouth in Devon remains ‘subject to the production of a robust business case’.
MPs concluded that ‘there remains much to be resolved in respect of the nearby work required to protect the railway line’. They also noted that there are ‘local concerns about the height of the wall and it is not clear what impact this will have on the project’.
The committee called on the Department for Transport (DfT) to write to it by the end of the year with ‘an update on progress with the South West Rail Resilience Programme, how it is working to resolve any local disagreements and the latest schedule for completion’’
As previously reported on Transport Network, senior DfT officials told the committee at a hearing last month that, despite transport secretary Chris Grayling’s pledge to local MPs to produce a transport strategy for the South West, the department expects this to be done by the region’s two newly formed sub-national transport bodies (STBs).
However, MPs pointed out that the new bodies ‘are less than a year old, they have not yet approached the Department for funding and it could be some time before they are able to deliver a strategy and carry out real value-added functions on behalf of the whole region’.
They recommended that the DfT should set out how it will support and monitor the development of STBs in their efforts to deliver an effective integrated transport strategy for the South West.