The communities and businesses of West Devon and Cornwall are celebrating today as their rail link with the rest of the country has been restored in time for the Easter holidays.
Following eight weeks of painstaking repairs to the storm-ravaged railway at Dawlish, a full service will run from Friday 4 April. However, because of continued flooding in the Somerset levels and final work to signalling at Dawlish continuing, there will be minor timetable changes to some trains.
Welcoming the reopening of the line David Cameron, Prime Minister, said:
“This is a great day for the hard-working people of Dawlish, and for businesses and commuters across the South West whose lives have been turned upside down by the devastating loss of their train line. Back in February when I visited the town to see the damage for myself, I promised to do everything I could to get this vital artery back up and running as quickly as possible. I am delighted to say that promise has been delivered today. A promise which says that the South West is well and truly open for business.
“The impact of the extreme weather shows the importance of making our railways strong enough to weather any storm. That is why we announced a £31 million package of improvements and asked Network Rail to examine every option to ensure the resilience of this route, all part of our long-term economic plan to boost business and create more jobs in the region.”
Mark Hopwood, managing director for First Great Western, said:
"The reopening of the railway line is good news for the South West and for our passengers. The railway plays a vital role in the prosperity of the region, and we are grateful to the hard work Network Rail and their teams have put in to get this line up and running as quickly a possible.
"Over the past two months we've put on thousands of extra buses and drafted in volunteers from FirstGroup companies across the UK to keep people moving. Throughout it all, our customers have been extremely patient and I would like to thank them for their support.”
Mark Carne, chief executive, Network Rail, said:
“Our army of engineers has done an amazing job of putting back together a railway that was ravaged by the elements. They have overcome every obstacle thrown at them, winning many battles along the way to restore this critical piece of the network, ahead of schedule, and in time for the Easter holidays.
“The biggest thanks must be reserved for passengers and local communities and businesses who have been hugely supportive and patient over the past two months as we worked flat-out to rebuild this vital rail link.
“Our focus now moves to the medium and long-term looking at what can be done at Dawlish to make the current coastal route more resilient and, by the autumn, understand what the best viable relief route might be.”
Network Rail’s army of 300-strong engineers, known locally as the ‘orange army’, has battled for over two months to overcome every obstacle thrown at it by Mother Nature; work that has included:
Building a temporary sea wall from 18 welded shipping containers to protect homes and engineers as they worked to repair a 100m breach at Riviera Terrace, Dawlish, following storms on 4 and 14 February
Rebuilt and fortified the breach with more than 6000 tonnes of concrete and 150 tonnes of steel
Removed 25,000 tonnes of collapsed cliff at Woodlands Avenue, Teignmouth, following a landslip on 4 March, using high pressure water canon, fire hoses, helicopter-borne water bombs, specialist roped access team and ‘spider’ excavators
Repaired dozens of other sites along a four mile stretch of coastal railway, clearing hundred of tonnes of debris and repairing over 600m of parapet wall
Rebuilt half of Dawlish station with a new platform, new canopy and repainting throughout with the finishing touches provided by TV gardener, Toby Buckland, and members of the ‘Friends of Dawlish station’
Installed over 13 miles of new cables, designed and installed a new temporary signalling system and replaced over 700m of track and ballast
With the most critical phase of the restoration now completed and the line reopened, engineers will now move to the less critical phase that includes:
Fully restoring the signalling and electronic equipment – currently a normal service is running with some minor retiming owing to a temporary signalling solution being in place
Removing the shipping container temporary sea wall
Rebuilding Brunel’s original sea-wall at the breach site using original stone and craftsmen repairing
Restoring the public footpath on the seaward side of the sea wall so the much loved coastal path from Dawlish to Teignmouth can reopen
Rebuilding the ‘lost road’ at Riviera Terrace so residents cut off by the breach can fully return to their homes again
While work continues to full restore train services after the collapse of the sea wall at Dawlish and flooding of the Somerset levels, some services may be slightly retimed until the end of April. Please check before travelling at www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk or www.nationalrail.co.uk.