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Extra £10M funding for iconic Devon rail line

The scenic line sits perilously close to the sea

The government has announced an extra £10M to help strengthen the resilience of the railway line from Exeter to Newton Abbot via Dawlish.

The route was significantly damaged by extreme weather in the winter of 2014, and the funding comes as a Network Rail report sets out its proposals for strengthening the route. These funds will be spent on further research into protecting the stretch of railway beyond the current round of funding, which was due to end in 2017.

Around 80m of sea wall was washed away by high tides and stormy seas in February of that year, taking a significant stretch of the Great Western Main Line railway with it. The road next to the railway was also washed away and several houses nearby were significantly damaged. Dawlish station, about 200m away, was badly damaged.

The overall impact of the disruption to the South West economy as the line was closed was estimated to be in excess of £1bn.

Network Rail’s report identified three priority areas where action is needed to prevent the main Exeter to Plymouth railway line being blocked by further extreme weather. These are:

  • 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.

“It is vital that we do all we can to prepare our transport system for extreme weather,” said transport secretary Chris Grayling. ”Never has the impact of nature been better demonstrated than at Dawlish and it is important that we make our railways strong enough to weather any storm. The further funding we have today announced will help to make sure that this vital link remains open.”

Network Rail managing director for the western route Mark Langman said: “Keeping the South West connected to the rest of the country by rail is vital to the economy of the region. We very much welcome the additional £10M in funds announced today to help us build on the work we’ve already done to prevent this crucial line being blocked in the case of extreme weather.”

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