THEN COMES THE ALTERNATIVE NEWS
Railway lines shut 50 years ago could be reopened in £100million plan to
divert trains away from destruction of Dawlish waves
- Transport Secretary orders 'rigorous
review' of alternatives to coastal line
- Patrick McLoughlin offers the army to help
repair track destroyed in storms
- Labour government rejected idea of
reopening lines further inland
- Southern Railway would add 50 miles to
route, Teign Valley route 15 miles
- Cornwall cut off from the rest of the
country, sparking calls for more money
- West Country MPs criticise £50billion for
London-Birmingham HS2 link
A £100million plan to redirect train services
in Devon and Cornwall could be revived after huge waves washed the line
The government revealed the army could be
called in to help repair the track at Dawlish after huge waves demolished the
sea wall on the south coast.
But Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin
today announced he has ordered a ‘rigorous review’ into alternatives, after the
last Labour government rejected the need to reroute the line.
Ministers have ordered an urgent review into alternative
rail routes which could include reopening the South Railway or the Teign Valley
lines which closed 50 years ago
MPs demanded to know why £50billion is being
spent on the HS2 line linking London to the north of England while services in
the south west are at the mercy of the weather.
The destruction of Dawlish's railway line has
effectively cut off rail links to Cornwall, with a 200ft stretch of tracks left
mangled and hanging over the boiling seas.
On the seafront huge granite blocks had been
ripped out by the force of the crashing waves and gales and 20 homes had to be
evacuated and people moved to a leisure centre.
Rail has warned the line, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and popular for its
stunning view, could be out of action for weeks.
Labour warned the closures are costing the
area millions in lost revenue, with the West Country's crucial tourism industry
threatened by the loss of a vital transport link.
Transport Secretary Mr Patrick McLoughlin last night held urgent talks
with Network Rail and MPs from Devon and Cornwall.
Troops could be called in to help Network Rail to repair
the line to get services moving as soon as possible
Network Rail said both tracks has been severely damaged by
the sea, washing away ballast and the foundations on which the track is
In 2006 the Met Office said one day it would be necessary
to replace or move key transport links like the Dawlish line
In the Commons he revealed he had
ordered a report into ‘the whole question of the resilience of the South
He told MPs: ‘I am working with Network Rail
to see that service is restored as quickly as possible but also to have a more
rigorous review of some of the other alternatives which may be
It raises the prospect of two lines closed
half a century ago being reopened to carry trains away from the
Mr McLoughlin has offered the
help of the Ministry of Defence to Network Rail to repair the line at
In 2006 Labour ministers ruled out the idea of
Then-transport minister Derek Twigg said:
'Network Rail recognises the importance of the line and continues to devote
considerable resources to maintaining it to an appropriate standard.
'It does not believe that the railway sea
defences in Dawlish are likely to fail in the foreseeable future, thanks to the
work carried out and the ongoing maintenance and monitoring.'
However at the time the Met Office said: ‘We
are obviously going to have to think about one day replacing or moving key
transport links like the Dawlish line.'
Now the dramatic destruction of the line means
the idea is set to be revisited.
One option is to reopen a 50-mile stretch of
the former Southern Railway from Exeter to Newton Abbott which was closed in
1958, which would mean trains no longer stopped at Teignmouth or Dawlish.
Another more costly plan would be to revive
the Southern Railway line which links Exeter to Plymouth via the northern edge
It would mean there would be no rail services
to Dawlish, Teignmouth, Torbay, Totnes or Ivybridge and take trains on a 50-mile
detour, adding to journey times.
Both options would be hugely expensive and
controversial for those areas which would lose services.
But ministers faced cross-party calls in the
Commons for radical action and investment to solve the problem.
Andrew George, Lib Dem MP for St Ives in the
far south of Cornwall, said: 'If we are to put proper investment into a resilient
service down to Penzance we need to make sure that there is a comparable funding
in terms of the kind of money which is being spent on HS2 and other
Former Labour Cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw,
MP for Exeter, demanded to know what Mr McLoughlin is ‘doing to ensure this
vital mainline into the South West is reopened as quickly as possible and what
he is going to do in the long-term to help ensure that the vulnerability of the
line at Dawlish is dealt with’.
Homes overlooking the Dawlish line have been left hanging
after the land gave way
The fierce seas ripped a gaping hole in the coastal road,
shattering tarmac and ripping holes in the the picturesque properties standing
on the sea front, forcing residents to evacuate
EXTRA £30MILLION IN FUNDING FOR REPAIRS AND FLOOD
The Government has found an extra
£30million to help councils deal with the damage caused by the severe weather
The money for this year is on top of
£100million announced by David Cameron yesterday.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said 42 new
flood defence schemes are also planned for 2014-15, as he hailed the
Government's £3.1 billion capital investment commitment as the largest by any
He told MPs: 'In the short-term, I can
announce that the Government will provide an additional £130million for
emergency repairs and maintenance, £30million in the current year and
£100million next year.
'This will cover costs incurred during the
current emergency response and recovery, as well as essential repairs to ensure
that defences are maintained.'
However, UKIP leader Nigel Farage called for
Britain’s foreign aid budget worth
£11billion to be immediately suspended with the money diverted to help areas in
the UK devastated by flooding.
The UKIP leader insisted ‘charity begins at
home’ and urged the government to step up its response to the colossal damage to
homes, businesses, roads and railways.
Mr McLoughlin insisted that he takes his
responsibilities to Devon and Cornwall ‘incredibly seriously’.
‘I also would like to certainly point out that
over the next five years between 2014 and 2019 NR will be spending £38billion on
the existing network.
‘There is not a shortage of understanding from
this government as to the very important nature of rail services across the
Anne Marie Morris, Tory MP for the Newton
Abbot seat which includes Dawlish, said the line ‘is a vital artery linking the
South West to UK and a long term solution to coastal rail flooding must be found
Devon County Council leader John Hart also
demanded Government help for the South West following the latest
He said: 'Once again we are cut off from the
rest of the country by rail. Now following the storm damage at Dawlish, the rest
of the peninsula is also cut off and we don't know when the line will be
restored. The region deserves more help. We've been told we just had the wettest
January in memory. But that followed the wettest January in memory last
'The time has come for the Government to take
more action to make sure that Devon and Cornwall don't get cut off for weeks
every winter. We need urgently to look at how our rail links can be better
Network Rail has called in a specialist
concrete spraying machine to shore up the damaged section of seafront, with
warnings the line could be out of action for up to six weeks.
Patrick Hallgate, head of the Western route,
said: 'We absolutely understand the importance of the railway to the south west
and will do everything we can to rebuild the railway at Dawlish as quickly and
safely as we can.
'After a quieter night’s weather, we have been
able to begin delivering machinery to our site compound with a view to
protecting the exposed section of railway and the land behind it. We need to
make sure we limit any further damage this weekend so that the significant
repairs that are needed do not become greater still.
'We will continue working with the Government,
Environment Agency, local authorities and other partners to explore ways of
improving the railway’s resilience to extreme weather. The disruption to rail
services in the south-west highlights the importance of that work and the need
for all forms of transport to ensure that they are fit for the
Labour's shadow transport secretary Mary
Creagh said: 'Freak weather is rapidly becoming the new normal in our country,
and I understand the difficulties you have in giving a timescale for the Dawlish
repairs, given further bad weather is forecast for Saturday.
'But every week that this line is closed costs
the regional economy tens of millions of pounds.'
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