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Network Rail looks to protect Devon train line

Some of the damage caused by the storms in Dawlish last winter Credit: PA

Network Rail are expected to reveal their thoughts about how to improve the resilience of the train line around South Devon.

They've been asked to investigate a number of options following the devastation caused by the storms earlier in the year. It's not thought they'll go so far as to recommend any particular route or improvement strategy.

Analysis: Multi-million pound rail improvements

David Cameron meets rail workers in Penzance Credit: ITV Westcountry

As we prepare for Network Rail's delayed report into the future of the Dawlish line, I understand they are warning that a lengthy tunnel under Haldon Hill would cost £3.1 billion and not be ready till 2046!

This effectively rules it out as an option even though David Cameron said today that "all options are still on the table".

It looks likely that the initial report will be published on Monday and avoid making specific recommendations.

However Network Rail will say, I understand, that they are committing eight million pounds to strengthening a 340-metre stretch of seafront on either side of the section that was washed away in February.

Apparently there is some alarm that if there is a repeat of last winter's violent storms, further sections could be breached as well- politically as well as economically embarrassing.

The review of other options - to reinstate the Okehampton route, or build a new inland line as envisaged in the 1930's, will go out to consultation later in the year and will form the basis of the final draft by around April next year - just before the next election.

So any big decisions will be for the next government. A key factor will be whether to create a new line bypassing Dawlish altogether, which would cut journey times to Plymouth but be massively expensive - or upgrading what we have now.

Bob Constantine - Political Correspondent

Prime Minister announces rail improvements in Penzance.

The Prime Minister promised a raft of multi million pound rail improvements in the West Country today. Rail experts said it wasn't enough and didn't solve the problems on the main line between Paddington and Penzance, claiming it was still stuck in the Victorian era.

David Cameron also didn't rule out building a new inland rail route to bypass Dawlish. Our Cornwall correspondent Steve Hardy reports.


Calls for urgency over Dawlish track repairs

While the Prime Minister is announcing more money to improve rail services around Penzance, the MP for Dawlish says urgent work still needs doing along the track there.

Anne-Marie Morris says she's still worried that sections of the line via Dawlish are still vulnerable to winter storms - despite repairs to the section that was washed away in February.

A report by Network Rail and the Department for Transport, due out next week, is expected to recommend more upgrades around Dawlish rather than expensive tunnelling to create an alternative route inland.

£146m investment for Cornish rail network

£146m is to be spent upgrading the South West rail network. Credit: PA

David Cameron will announce today that Cornwall will receive a multi-million pound package to improve the railway service.

It's hoped the £146 million deal will provide a faster service, lift the local economy and create new jobs.

It's estimated that nearly seven million passengers use the rail network in Cornwall every year, with passenger numbers growing twice as fast as the national average.

Dawlish sea wall to be raised to improve safety

The work to raise the sea wall to protect the track will also mean the footpath can be used at high tide Credit: Network Rail

Network Rail has announced plans to raise the sea wall at Dawlish to improve protection to the railway track.

It follows its repair work on the railway, which was breached during the winter storms.

One section of the sea wall is lower than elsewhere in the town because of pressure from a landowner when the railway was built in the 19th century.

Raising the 340m stretch will also mean the footpath can be used at high tide. The work was suggested by residents.

Julian Burnell from Network Rail says: “We need to complete this work before next winter, so we will need to work across the late summer and autumn. We’ve been here long enough to know how important the tourist season is, so we’ll be making sure we cause as little disruption as we can.

The work will affect access to the footpath and beach but Network Rail is liaising with the community to minimise disruption.

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