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Storms batter Great Western Railway in the South West

Storm damage and flooding have forced Network Rail to shut the Great Western Main Line between Exeter and Penzance indefinately.

On the coast at Dawlish in Devon, storms last week damaged around 80m of twin track, with the sea washing away ballast and foundations. The sea wall, track and platforms at Dawlish station were also severely damaged.

Network Rail engineers were on site at a number of locations in the South West and were making repairs where the weather conditions permitted.

The rail operator said it hoped that these repairs would enable some services on the main line between Plymouth and Penzance to resume today. But it said the line between Exeter and Plymouth would remain closed until further notice because of the damage at Dawlish.

An initial assessment of the Dawlish damage was expected to be carried out as soon as the weather subsided. This will help Network Rail identify the extent and scope of repairs required to enable trains to run safely.

Devon County Council said its staff had been working “flat out” to deal with the effects of last night’s storm.

Homes in Dawlish had to be evacuated and a section of road collapsed.

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 110km/h.

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.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • Is it about time that LEPs and counties focused on a long term plan to accelerate railway journey times and simultaneously improve infrastructure resilience across Devon, with an A30 rail corridor north of Dartmoor (the former Southern Railway route via Okehampton might allow a head start). Potentially a 1 hour time saving to Cornwall, ½ hour to Plymouth, if build to high speed standards.
    Jonathan Roberts

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