An alliance of councils and businesses has welcomed £10m to fund further work on improving the resilience of the rail line from Exeter to Newton Abbot – but pointed out that the funding is only for plans.
The Department of Transport’s (DfT) announcement of funding followed a Network Rail report setting out three priority areas to prevent the route, part of the main Exeter to Plymouth railway line, being blocked by further extreme weather.
The DfT said the funding would allow Network Rail to continue its development work when the current funding comes to an end in 2017. It is additional to £5m announced by the then chancellor, George Osborne, in April’s Budget and will fund work until 2019.
In its report, Network Rail estimated that the total construction costs for the three schemes would be £260m in Control Period 6, from 2019.
The main rail line at Dawlish in 2014
The line was badly damaged in the winter of 2014 when a section of the sea wall was washed away, leaving the tracks hanging in space. There was also a major landslip on the cliffs at Teignmouth.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘It is vital that we do all we can to prepare our transport system for extreme weather.’
The Peninsula Rail Task Force, a partnership of local authorities and business and other organisations, welcomed the announcement.
Chair Cllr Andrew Leadbetter 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.
‘It is clear that the Government recognises the importance of keeping the line open and the Task Force will continue to press Government for the funding to deliver the resilience works as part of our 20 year plan for investment which we will submit to Government this Autumn. At present the line still remains vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather incidents and we cannot afford to be cut off again.’
In its report, Network Rail identified 3 priority areas where action is needed to prevent. 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