A rail taskforce pulling together a dozen national and regional organisations has been established, marking the launch of a high-level study that aims to protect a key rail link between Devon and Cornwall against extreme weather.
Led by Network Rail, the study management group also combines expertise from the Department for Transport, the Environment Agency, train operating companies and local authorities. The group will steer the strategic review on the viability of three long-term options – retaining the coastal route; building a second line and re-routing the main line.
Paul Harwood, strategy and planning director for Network Rail, said: “The railway in the south west has been helping move people and products for more than 175 years. We are taking action today to safeguard the railway for the next 175 years and beyond.
“The catastrophic destruction of the Dawlish sea wall by the storm in February has made clear the need to re-think the long-term strategy around changing climate and extreme weather. A robust railway is integral to national resilience and we are committed to keep passengers moving, every day and in every situation. We need to review what viable alternatives exist – otherwise there will be severe implications for local and national economies, mobility and connectivity across the region and the wider UK.”
Forecast sea level rises, passenger demand, the impact on communities and environmental, social and economic factors will be considered as part of the process, as well as examining engineering options to strengthen the sea wall. The group will also be informed by findings from a study which will examine five potential alternative routes outside the coastal route.
The study is due to be completed by early summer and it will serve to inform the Department for Transport on the options for a long-term transport strategy for the south west.