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One rail line reopens east of Exeter as travel chaos continues

By WMNlynbarton  |  Posted: February 09, 2014

By Lyn Barton, WMN reporter, Twitter: @BartonLyn

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The main rail line at Dawlish, west of Exeter, has already been washed away.

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One of the rail lines east of Exeter has now reopened with trains running a reduced speeds.

The lines running through Castle Cary and the more southerly one through Crewkerne between Exeter and London were shut in the aftermath of the terrible weather yesterday.

However, Network Rail said the landslip at Crewkerne had now been cleared.

A spokesman said close inspection of the site on the railway between Yeovil and Exeter has revealed that it is safe to run trains at a reduced speed.

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This has allowed a limited service to begin between Exeter and Waterloo this afternoon, with the first train departing Exeter at 12.25.

Work is progressing to get diverted trains from the more northerly Westbury to Paddington line moving over the Yeovil route as soon as possible.

Elsewhere in Somerset, the routes from Bridgwater and Castle Cary are still under water caused by the flooded River Parrett and are being monitored by Network Rail engineers.

Meanwhile, work to protect the damaged sea wall site in Dawlish from the sea is going well in between high tides.

A row of shipping containers is being put in place and filled with rubble to provide a breakwater, while concrete spraying has continued, in order to protect the vulnerable sub-soil.

Yesterday, rail travel was not possible east or west of Exeter after the terrible weather caused a landslip and closed the railway line in Somerset.

First Great Western said the main line between Exeter and London was closed at Crewkerne and trains were being diverted to Bristol Parkway.

The firm said buses would be laid on from there to Exeter.

There was no word on the seriousness of the landslip or when it would be fixed.

Commuters in the Westcountry already face the substantial disruption to the main line service after the line was washed away at Dawlish.

Network Rail has confirmed that it is in discussions with the Ministry of Defence to see if the military can help.

The Western Morning News is leading demands for the Government to end years of rail misery in Devon and Cornwall by funding a service fit for the 21st century.

Against at least six weeks of disruption, which will cost the region’s economy dearly, MPs argue it is time to end the South West’s Cinderella rail status and build a new route more resilient to extreme weather.

They say just a fraction of the £42 billion earmarked for HS2 – the high speed link between London and the north – would pay for an alternative to the luckless coastal route.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced a “rigorous review” of alternatives to the coastal Great Western line, raising hopes of dusting off a £100 million inland link to avoid storm damage.

Engineers believe the Dawlish line will be down for at least six weeks amid warnings major delays on the only rail route into Devon and Cornwall will cost the regional economy tens of millions of pounds every week. Other sources suggest it could be months before the line is back to normal.

Around 80 metres of the sea wall was destroyed by high tides and stormy seas, causing a significant stretch of railway to collapse into the sea.

The road adjacent to the railway and several houses has also been damaged, as was Dawlish station itself and several other sites in the area.

Rail and concrete sleepers that once carried trains along the sea wall have been cut away and placed across the bottom of the damaged section.

These are gradually being reinforced with sprayed fast-drying concrete, which will form a temporary barrier to take the brunt of today’s forecast heavy seas, Network Rail said.

“It is hoped this will absorb enough of the force of the waves over the next 24 hours so that the weakened sub-soil, which is very soft, will not erode further,” a spokesman said.

“The most damaged platform at Dawlish station has been demolished and will be rebuilt in the coming weeks.”

Network Rail is asking the public to stay away from the area, as the combination of heavy machinery, concrete spraying, and the waves means it is not safe to be around.

“Engineers are working in very difficult conditions with work taking place on a six-hours on, six-hours off basis, designed around the tidal patterns,” the spokesman said.

“Full assessment of repairs will come with calmer weather after the weekend, along with a revised timescale.

“Initial assessments are that it will be at least six weeks to completion from when work begins.”

Network Rail has mobilised a range of specialist contractors, engineers and suppliers from across the country to help with the work needed at Dawlish.

It has also taken up the offer of discussions with the Ministry of Defence to see if there is any help which can be provided by the military.

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6 comments

  • AaronT_1986  |  February 20 2014, 10:53AM

    The IET's Devon & Cornwall Network are actually having a free to attend lecture that fits in with this titled 'The Beeching Report - 50 Years On'. The presenter (Dave Saunders) will explore the following: "The report detailing reshaping of British Railways was published on 27th March 1963 and is one of the most notorious government reports of the 20th century. The failure of the modernisation plan to stem BR's losses led Beeching to propose wholesale route closures, in an attempt to concentrate resources on the core routes. This influenced the world we live in today - was he misguided or a farsighted thinker?" This lecture will take place as follows: Date: 25 February 2014 Time: 19:00 - 21:00 Location: University of Plymouth (Babbage Bldg), PL4 8AA Date: 26 February 2014 Time: 19:00 - 21:00 Location: University of Exeter (Harrison Bldg), EX4 4PY Complimentary refreshments will be available from 18:30 and these events usually offer good networking opportunities. The IET Devon & Cornwall Network community page can be found at http://tinyurl.com/ow8ptpt

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  • josdave  |  February 10 2014, 8:12AM

    There are many other lines ion the country that could use the money being wasted on HS2 as well as the Dawlish section but will they halt HS2 and spend the money wisely? Not while the fat cats stand a chance of getting even fatter on the backs of HS2. The Dawlish line must be kept open and also the line across the moors should be looked at as an alternative when that line cannot be used.

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  • Valda  |  February 09 2014, 11:13PM

    Government must compensate flood victims, invest in railway infrastructure , resume river dredging but no our taxes are spent elsewhere .........there is a blank cheque for the London to Birmingham £52 billion (and rising) HS2 rail link!! I am so looking forward to the 2015 election !!!

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  • A30flyer  |  February 09 2014, 7:31PM

    Very high speed trains use a huge amount of energy, and most of our electricity production emits CO2. While this situation persists jet aircraft emit less CO2 than a high speed train. Nevertheless I agree with the general point, apart from addressing the Dawlish problem, it's the line West of Plymouth which really needs sorting out. Two hours to travel the 77 miles from Penzance to Plymouth? Average speed 39mph - come on.

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  • paul_gale  |  February 09 2014, 5:52PM

    Regular rail travellers know only too well of the problem and low average speed of travelling from London to Penzance in the far south west or indeed the return journey where average speeds for either 340 mile journey are often below 60MPH! What's needed is a complete overhaul of the track, a diversion away form the often storm hit Dawlish and re-signalling, particularly in Cornwall, where many old fashioned lever operated signal boxes still operate! It may be pie in the sky, but consider this? Newquay airport in Cornwall has one of the longest runways in Europe and can handle some of the largest planes flying. If a very high speed railway was built form London to Newquay, with customs clearance and airline check in available actually on the train, many tons of CO2 would no longer need to be deposited over built up area's, as planes would arrive and depart immediately over the Atlantic Ocean. This would also bring much needed investment and employment into Cornwall. One could say it would kill three birds with one stone?

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  • rt1379  |  February 09 2014, 4:54PM

    South West's Cinderella rail status ?? Cinderella rail or not, this MUST be kept open .... its part of our heritage ! ... There will be lots of regret in the future if this track is closed permanently ... just like there is with the many other routes that were closed by beeching !

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