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NCE Live News Updates Wednesday 5 February: Exeter to Penzance railway closed indefinitely

Storms have swept away a 80m section of the Great Western Main Line near Dawlish, closing the line indefinitely.

5pm: The Environment Agency is preparing for further floods throughout this week and into the weekend.

Six severe flood warnings remain in place in the South West along with a further 292 flood warnings and alerts across England and Wales.

The EA said there was a high risk of coastal flooding in Dorset and Devon and of further river flooding on the Somerset Levels and Moors.

John Curtin, head of incident management at the Agency, said: “With further river and coastal flooding expected this week we continue to have teams working around the clock to protect homes and communities and we are mobilising staff from across the EA to provide support in affected areas.”


3.45pm: HS2 Ltd is to ask potential suppliers - including those outside the rail sector - how it should procure work for the £43bn scheme.

The rail link promoter said it would hold discussion groups and one-to-one meetings with construction companies and trade associations among others over the next four months.

HS2 Ltd commercial director Beth West said: “HS2 will generate billions of pounds worth of contracts, giving businesses large and small across the UK the opportunity to bid for work during the construction and operation of HS2.

“Understanding and observing the market’s current thoughts and opinions will play an important part in the development of our final procurement strategy for Phase One.

“We are also keen to work with businesses who are not traditionally involved in the rail sector. These can bring best practice techniques and products to ensure the delivery of HS2. We look forward to engaging with businesses early on in the process and we would like to encourage them to engage with us too.”


3.30pm: A water sector chief has called for education of the public about the reality of flood risk management.

Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management interim chief executive Nigel Hendley called for a long-term plan to counter flooding.

“It is clear many people believe that flooding can be prevented and coastal erosion can be stopped.  This is not realistic and it is crucial that we educate everyone,” he said.

Read the full story here.


3pm: Network Rail has laid out plans for a new rail link to Heathrow Airport

Network Rail has laid out its proposals, as tasked by the Government in summer 2012, for a new rail link from the Great Western main line to London Heathrow airport.

The future rail link, subject to planning permission, will allow passengers to travel from Reading, via Slough, to Heathrow airport via a direct train service. Currently, passengers wishing to access Heathrow by rail have to travel into London Paddington station before changing to dedicated airport services.

Network Rail met with MPs and other local stakeholders to discuss the detailed plans – known as the Western Rail Access Programme – that would provide significant economic benefits for the growing number of businesses in the Thames Valley, M4 corridor and south west England and south Wales.

2.30pm: Network Rail reveals extent of south west rail damage


2pm: The railway between Exeter and Penzance is currently shut after damage at several locations caused by storm force winds, heavy seas and flooding.

On the coast at Dawlish, around 80m of both tracks has been severely damaged by the sea, washing away ballast and the foundations on which the track is built. There is also severe damage to the sea wall and the track and platforms at Dawlish station.

Network Rail engineers are on site at a number of locations in the south west of England and are making repairs where the weather conditions permit. The rail operator said it hoped that these repairs will enable some services on the main line between Plymouth and Penzance to resume today, however the line between Exeter and Plymouth will remain closed until further notice owing to the damage at Dawlish.

The rail operator said an initial assessment of the damage at Dawlish will be carried out as soon as the weather subsides to help it identify the extent and scope of repairs required to enable trains to run safely.


2pm: Devon County Council says its staff are working “flat out” to deal with the aftermath of last night’s storm.

The local authority said its highway operations control centre took more than 300 calls overnight as the South West was hit by heavy rain and gusts of up to 70mph.

Homes in Dawlish had to be evacuated when part of the sea wall and railway line was washed away, and a section of road collapsed.

Councillor Stuart Hughes said: “These are some of the most horrendous conditions I can remember, and the combination of heavy rain and strong winds is causing disruption across the county.

“The problems with the rail line at Dawlish have again shown how vulnerable transport links are in Devon. A number of roads are closed due to fallen trees and power cables and the weather is sure to have a severe impact on our already fragile network.”


12.45pm: Many construction firms are looking at paying an “ethical” minimum wage, according to a poll.

The Close Brothers Business Barometer found that seven in 10 SMEs questioned were in favour of the living wage, and two-thirds of these were considering implementing it.

The living wage stands at £8.55 an hour in London and £7.45 an hour in the rest of the UK, while the legal minimum wage is £6.31 for adults.

Close Brothers Asset Finance national sales director for construction Andy Sagar said: “Adopting the living wage is an ethical decision that businesses may take to ensure their staff can achieve a decent standard of living.

“The idea has been in the spotlight recently receiving widespread political support, but to date has seen limited backing from employers, so it’s interesting to learn that such a large proportion are now considering its implementation.”


11am: The South West appears to be bearing the brunt of the bad weather this morning.

Nine severe flood warnings are in place in the region, with all rail lines between Exeter and Penzance closed due to the storms overnight.

Police said the railway and the station at Dawlish on the south Devon coast had suffered severe damage overnight.

There are also a number of local road closures across the West Country caused by storm debris.


10.30am: ISG has been awarded a £125M fit out deal at the new UK headquarters for banking giant UBS.

The contractor will start working on the scheme at 5 Broadgate in the City of London early next year.

The scheme will involve delivering 65,000m2 of high-spec office space, including up to three trading floors and an auditorium.

Reassuringly, confidence is returning to the London office market as a whole,” said ISG chief executive David Lawther.


10am: The infrastructure sector has seen its sharpest rise in activity in almost seven years, according to research.

Civils work registered 63.5 on the UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index in January 2014.

This was its highest reading since the heady pre-credit crunch days of July 2007.

Construction output as a whole has been growing for nine successive months, according to the poll by Markit and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply.

Comments from survey respondents suggested that an ongoing upturn in domestic economic conditions, alongside greater access to finance for clients, had boosted business.

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