ENGINEERS repairing the flood-damaged rail line between Tiverton and Exeter have managed to reopen the route 24 hours earlier than expected.
Services to the south west have been severely disrupted since the busy junction at Cowley Bridge was swamped when the River Exe burst its banks last Saturday, December 22.
The line was not expected to reopen until tomorrow (Saturday) but Network Rail announced services have now resumed a day ahead of schedule.
Fire crews worked with engineers to set up inflatable dams on the line after last week’s bout of heavy rain caused widespread flooding across the region.
A spokesman for Network Rail praised the efforts of the company’s engineers, who worked throughout the Christmas break to repair the track.
“The engineers have worked extremely hard,” he said.
“It has been a real team effort.
“When incidents like this happen, our focus is always on getting services back up and running as soon as possible.
“We have learned some lessons from the flooding in November and done some things differently.
"There's nothing that we could do to prevent the River Exe bursting its banks and causing the track damage - but we have done some things proactively to minimise damage to the signalling.
“Ultimately, we would like to be in a position in future where our rail infrastructure is strong enough to withstand incidents like this.”
Elsewhere, flooding is continuing to cause disruption on a number of other rail routes.
Services between Exeter St Davids and Exmouth are expected to be disrupted until January 1 due to damage caused to a railway bridge by earlier flooding in the Lympstone area.
Trains will start and terminate at Topsham with road transport operating between there and Exmouth in both directions.
A road transport service is currently replacing rail travel between Exeter St Davids and Barnstaple, where the line is again expected to be closed until January 1.
In Cornwall, services between Liskeard and Looe are suspended in both directions with limited road transport service in place.