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Storm-struck southwest rail link reopens
From the Financial Times of Fri, 04 Apr 2014 19:46:06 GMT
DAWLISH, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 04: A train passes along a newly opened section of track on April 4, 2014 in Dawlish, England. The railway line has re-opend after track near the town was damaged in the winter storms. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)©Getty

The rail link to the southwest of England reopened on Friday, two months after the trackbed was swept away by the sea at Dawlish in Devon.

A group of 300 engineers have spent two months rebuilding a stretch of track and sea wall along one of the most spectacular parts of the UK rail network after heavy storms in early February cut off Cornwall and most of Devon from the rest of the country.

Network Rail said it had spent £35m in getting the track open before the start of the school Easter holidays after high waves swept away a sea wall designed by the Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the 1840s as part of what was then the South Devon line.

David Cameron, prime minister, described the repair job as a “Herculean effort” and declared the South West “open for business”. It is estimated the loss of the rail link could have cost the local economy as much as £100m.

Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, called for a longer-term solution and the opening of a second rail route to the west. “What we need is an additional line, I don’t think anybody suggests getting rid of this beautiful line. It connects Exeter to Dawlish, through to Newton Abbot, and I think that line will continue,” he said.

“But it is clearly vulnerable, it will become increasingly vulnerable with climate change and for the sake of the South West economy as a whole, we need a long-term solution including an additional line.”

Just after the line was closed the government promised to look at alternatives and had identified two options inland, leading to fears the Dawlish stretch would close permanently.

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