Rail line wrecked by winter storms reopens ahead of Easter holidays

The rail line has been restored. Credit: PA

Rail users have hailed the reopening of the track at Dawlish in Devon as "absolutely fantastic" ahead of the Easter holidays.

A 300 strong National Rail team repaired the track over 56 days and nights, where the sea wall and parts of the station were wrecked in February's severe storms.

The coast-hugging line linking Exeter St Davids with Newton Abbot, Plymouth and Penzance had to close, costing the region millions in lost trade.

We are delighted that the train line is now reopened through Dawlish. Devon is one of the UK's top holiday destinations - welcoming over 36 million visitors a year and supporting over 74,000 jobs - and many tourism businesses have suffered as a result of the closure. Bookings leading up to Easter are estimated as being 23% down and current reckoning is the crisis has cost the county around £31 million.

The work was hampered by another severe storm on the night of February 14 and 15 when monstrous seas battered and damaged the 10-tonne shipping containers forming the temporary sea wall.

It is so important for everyone across the rest of our country and indeed across the rest of the world to know this simple fact - that the South West is open for business, open to tourism, open for trade, open once again, so please come and visit this wonderful part of the country.

Prime Minister David Cameron has declared the south west of England "open for business" again as he visited a town whose storm-wrecked rail line reopened today. Mr Cameron praised the south west as "a wonderful part of the country".

Huge waves broke over the railway in Dawlish. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Network Rail staff have worked around the clock in difficult and dangerous conditions to restore services. But people are rightly asking David Cameron why his out-of-touch Government dragged its feet in providing £31 million in rail flood resilience funding. This money was originally promised to the South West over a year ago, but only materialised after the devastating floods in February.

The storm damaged a further 10 to 20 metres of sea wall and more shipping containers had to be moved in.

Railway track was exposed and left hanging after the sea wall collapsed in Dawlish. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Press Association Images

I go to visit my family in London or the North and, because I am disabled, I have assistance here. The repairs have been absolutely wonderful. It was a huge job but Network Rail are very efficient and I'm not surprised they were ahead of schedule. The trains are our lifeline here. We simply can't do without them.

Engineers from Network Rail repaired the Great Western Main Line in Dawlish. Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/Press Association Images

It was absolute chaos when the track was closed. The roads had a huge amount of traffic with so many buses. The trains are absolutely vital. From Dawlish you can go to Paddington, or even catch a train to Glasgow and then from there you can explore all over Scotland. In the holidays the trains here are swarming with people. Had they not managed to get the track repaired, business from all of those people would have been lost.

Town Crier Steve Cunliffe and his wife Caroline Cunliffe stand on the railway platform at Dawlish railway station Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/PA Wire/Press Association Images

There were further problems on March 4 when engineers discovered that 20,000 tonnes of cliff face near Teignmouth just south of Dawlish had sheared away above the railway.

This meant stabilisation work had to be done.