Network Rail today announced an accelerated date for reopening the Great Western Main Line through Dawlish, reconnecting West Devon and Cornwall to the national rail network – Friday 4 April, almost two weeks earlier than the previous mid-April estimate.
Innovative approaches to sea defence and round-the-clock working by a team of more than 300 engineers have already seen huge amounts of rebuilding work completed along the damaged seafront. The main 100m breach has been repaired with nearly 5,000 tonnes of concrete and 150 tonnes of steel, and a new 200m track is ready-built for installation.
Network Rail is acutely aware of the value of the railway to the economy of the south west of England and has been working closely with local authorities, business groups and transport providers in and around Dawlish to ensure that disruption is minimised. Restoring this vital asset in time for the busy school holiday period will provide a welcome boost to the regional economy as business and tourism return to South Devon and Cornwall.
Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said: “I saw for myself the scale of the damage to the line at Dawlish caused by the recent exceptionally bad weather. Today’s confirmation that the line should now be back in operation before the Easter holidays will be a real boost for local communities and businesses. I know that Network Rail staff have been working tirelessly to get the line up and running as soon as possible. I would like to thank everyone for their hard work so far.”
Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail’s Western route managing director, said: “We are determined to complete this work in time for the school holidays to support the vital tourism trade in Dawlish, South Devon and across the south west of England. An unfortunate event like the one experienced at Dawlish shows how important the railway is to the region’s people and its economy and I hope our efforts to restore here show how seriously we treat that responsibility.
“Even when Dawlish is complete, a great deal of work remains elsewhere. First we will bring the railway back to full capacity, then we will create solutions that will protect this vital national asset for the future. We are tackling that process head-on.”
Mark Carne, Network Rail chief executive, said: ”This is just one example of the extraordinary efforts by the railway industry to restore services after the unprecedented floods and storms of this winter that affected many passengers up and down the country. For now, let me express the railway industry’s gratitude for the support and understanding shown by passengers and the country as a whole.”
Carolyn Custerson, chairman of Visit Devon and chief executive of English Riviera, said: "It's excellent news that the train line is to re-open by April 4. Transport links to Devon are crucial for our visitor economy and having the line open by Easter will be a huge boost to consumer confidence helping to kickstart tourism in the region. We offer a massive thanks to the team at Network Rail who are working tirelessly to repair the line. Devon needs a fast, resilient rail service to power the regional economy and it's great to know that all routes to Devon will be open again."
Mark Hopwood, First Great Western managing director, said: "First Great Western welcomes Network Rail's commitment to reopen the line through Dawlish ahead of their mid April estimate. This is good news for the South West and for our passengers, allowing us to restore through train services linking London and Exeter with Torbay, Plymouth and Cornwall. Until the line reopens we continue to run train services between Exeter and London and between Newton Abbot and Penzance with bus services linking these to keep our passengers moving, and will do everything we can to minimise disruption to our customers' journeys."
Andy Cooper, CrossCountry managing director, added: “Every year we carry over ten thousand tourists to the region over the Easter weekend from the Midlands, the North of England and Scotland, so having direct rail services through Dawlish again will show people the railways and the South West are open for business.