The South West peninsula is “angry” the Government has only offered “crumbs” to improve rail connections to the region following the Dawlish disaster, an MP has told George Osborne.
The Chancellor yesterday failed to add to an announcement on Tuesday that it is examining an additional £875 million rail line across Dartmoor to avoid the vulnerable coastal route in south Devon.
Some hoped he would use his Autumn Statement to signal support for a faster inland route – a so-called Dawlish “avoiding line” burrowed under Haldon Hill.
There was also no further detail on how much the Government was willing to spend to shore up Brunel’s spectacular but fragile line.
A review is to look at reviving the Exeter to Plymouth line via Okehampton and Tavistock, which was closed in 1968, to provide “resilience” if the Great Western fails and leaves much of the region cut off.
But business leaders in Plymouth, the Westcountry’s urban centre, have led calls for a more inland route as well.
Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, challenged the Chancellor in the House of Commons over the “crumbs” offered to the region.
She said: “The Prime Minister said ‘money was no object’ when we had storm damage. He clearly didn’t mean it, and the people in the South West will not forget and will be angry.”
But Mr Osborne pointed to the £2 billion invested in dualling the A303, including via a tunnel under Stonehenge, and A358, plus improvements to the A30 in Cornwall, to create an “expessway” from London.
He said: “I don’t think what she says bares a resemblance to what has been announced this week. The South West has been one of the biggest winners of the infrastructure plan we have announced a massive upgrade of the A303 and the A358. Something that in all the years of the Labour government nothing happened to.
“The Dawlish rail line, of course, had the problems when the storms came – which I think says something about the investment the Labour government put in there in the past. Not only have we repaired that line but we are now looking at an alternative route to increase resilience to the South West. She says it’s ‘crumbs’. This is billions of pound of investment into the South West that never happened under a Labour government.”
Network Rail has already looked at seven additional inland routes and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin will still formally respond to the report. Whitehall officials insist a further line has not been ruled out.
@Flo. Poor old Plymouth MP`S not getting their additional railway line. If they just made the Dawlish Sea wall Higher then it would solve some of the problems. What has Oakhampton/Tavistock got that Dawlish/Dawlish Warren have not got?
I can't believe anyone would believe a further line would be built remember Cameron standing on the station and telling us money is no object well folks i think he may have been telling a little porky. stephen15 if you make the wall higher what about the tunnels it,s more complicated than just adding 2or 3 ft to the wall but it could be made wider??.
No reason why Okehampton and Tavistock people should not have a railway for people to go to Exeter or Plymouth for work or days out. And Stephen .. Okehampton and Tavistock has no sea to stop the train from running! Who knows people from Dartmoor may visit Dawlish by train for the day ..well once anyway!
@Leatash. Are you saying that Sea Wall should be moved further out to the sea? Because I had not thought of that, making it wider.
I am no expert but if the wall was 12ft wider concrete and steel would that not make it more resilient.
@leatash but also add breakwaters out at sea made of rock that would take some of the wave force away.
My hunch is it's all just a bit of an election tease that Oke-Tavy will be re-built anytime soon.
Snag is that there are a lot of costs involved from building a brand new Meldon Viaduct, track raising Exeter to Crediton to make it flood proof, improving earthworks to modern standards, signalling, oh and not to mention that small matter of demolishing the shortsighted placing of council offices at Tavistock and now needing to rebuild them elsewhere.
This project will need to happen one day in the next 50years to service future prosperity and inevitable population growth, carbon reduction etc.
Has similarly happened with the 'Borders Railway south of Edinburgh, so it is all perfectly possible with the right long term vision.
However, taking as a SW example the amount of effort it took just to approve the redoubling of a miserly 2miles worth of track at Axminster......
Back to Dawlish and the question no one is answering so far is this. Let's assume for a moment that the G'ovt actually decides to stump up the money to once and for all build sufficient sea defences to defend the track on a 100year protection basis. Will you be happy to see a major change to the character of your coastline? Because it cannot be done by simply building the walls a little higher as many seem to optimistically believe here. It will take major, major works that will spell the end to cute and quaint as you know it.
@Stephen - Answer to your first question - Both lines will always be sub-optimal, but at least there will be an 'heir and a spare' providing resiliance. Also plenty of extra happy Devon communities.
@flo - as for the plymouth bashing, remember that all the same arguments from plymouth and cornwall for wanting a reliable service apply to a far greater extent to na and totnes and torbay. and that is because they would stand to gain absolutely nothing from an oke-tavy line whatsoever. also railtrack will gratefully use the option of extended track posessions knowing they can still get trains (sleeper in particular) through to plymouth via dartmoor.