South Devon Rail options to be considered
Network Rail has announced a new taskforce along with the launch of a high-level study to look at how to protect key rail links between South Devon and the rest of the country in the face of future extreme weather conditions.
The taskforce involving a dozen national and regional organisations has been set up to rethink the long-term strategy for a rail line into Devon and Cornwall in the wake of the Dawlish storm disaster.
The vulnerable coastal main-line route is now expected to be reopened in time for Easter thanks to a day and night repair operation costing million of pounds.
There have already been calls for an alternative rail route into the region which would bypass Teignmouth and Dawlish and the at-risk coastal tracks.
But one of those is a western route linking Exeter with Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock which would also bypass Totnes and leave the town – along with the rest of the South Hams – on what would effectively be a branch line.
Network Rail has said the taskforce would be carrying out a strategic review on the viability of three long-term options – retaining the coastal route, building a second line and rerouting the main line.
The rail bosses say the study is intended to generate an appraisal of alternative scenarios in the event that the Dawlish coastal route is not available because of severe weather events or maintenance requirements.
And they warn it is clear that loss of the route without a viable alternative has severe implications for both local and national economies, mobility and connectivity across the region and the wider UK.
The study will also tie in with the ongoing Western Route Study, as part of the long-term planning process.
Paul Harwood, strategy and planning director for Network Rail, said: ‘The railway in the south west has been helping move people and products for more than 175 years. We are taking action today to safeguard the railway for the next 175 years and beyond.
‘The catastrophic destruction of the Dawlish seawall by the storm in February has made clear the need to rethink the long-term strategy around changing climate and extreme weather.
‘A robust railway is integral to national resilience and we are committed to keep passengers moving, every day and in every situation.
‘We need to review what viable alternatives exist – otherwise there will be severe implications for local and national economies, mobility and connectivity across the region and the wider UK.’