Business and council leaders from across the South West are demanding an “urgent” meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss the crisis in rail connections.
The entire region is paying a very high price for “years of under-investment” in the rail network according to leading figures who met with a Government minister this morning.
The leaders of Cornwall, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay councils and the chairmen of local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) said the loss of a rail connection with the rest of the country was causing “immense damage to the region’s economy”.
They demanded the appointment of a single senior minister to take responsibility for the rail crisis in the South West.
The rail line at Dawlish was demolished in the storms that hit overnight on Tuesday and Network Rail has said it will take at least six weeks to repair the damage.
The open letter addressed to David Cameron said: “We are writing on behalf of the South West peninsula’s residents and the business community to ask for urgent action from the Government to restore our rail connections to the rest of the country as quickly as possible.
“The only rail line into the South West has been left dangling by a thread over the sea at Dawlish. As a result there will be no through rail services between Cornwall, Plymouth, Torbay and South Devon, and the rest of the UK for many weeks, if not months.”
The letter said this was the second year running that the South West has been cut off from the rest of the country and said immediate action was “imperative” to deal with a situation affecting a combined population of more than two million.
The letter said: “We believe that this is so important to the economy of the region and indeed the country that a single, senior minister needs to take responsibility for rail resilience in the South West and ensure rapid response and co-ordination of various agencies.”
The business and council leaders requested immediate publication of an emergency timetable covering the region, a public information campaign, fare reductions and the immediate release of a £31.3 million investment programme to help the rail network withstand flooding.
A promise was made in Westminster yesterday to review alternative routes to the current line through Dawlish, which has been washed away in this week's storms.
The West Briton, the Cornishman and Cornish Guardian, along with our sister titles the Western Morning News and Plymouth Herald, want the politicians to go one step further, and to commit to creating a second line into the Duchy to provide resilience in extreme weather.