David Cameron has announced £31 million for rail flood protection in the South West – though the region has been waiting months for the cash following last year's floods.
The Western Morning News was the fist to report in May last year track bosses Network Rail had drawn up a programme of ten projects – costing £31 million – to avoid interminable delays on the western route if heavy rain returns.
The proposal has since sat with the Department for Transport, which had to sign off on extra funding for the ten schemes after ordering Network Rail to carry out the post-flooding review.
Last year, Cowley Bridge was closed for 11 days, but caused weeks of delays in the aftermath, which had a chain reaction for passengers travelling as far west as Penzance on the Great Western line.
Flooding this year has since caused further problems, notably the only Devon and Cornwall mainline collapsing into the sea at Dawlish.
In recent days, MPs from all parties on the peninsula had complained bitterly about the delay to funding.
At Prime Minister's Questions, South West Devon Conservative MP Gary Streeter asked Mr Cameron about "finding long-term solutions to providing rail resilience in the far South West".
In reply, Mr Cameron said: "We are finding £31 million to fund 10 rail-resilience projects in the south-west to improve the resilience against flooding. That will include work at Cowley bridge junction, Chipping Sodbury, Hinksey, Whiteball tunnel and a number of other places including Honiton and Crewkerne. Clearly, the most important thing is that Dawlish rail link."
Action to reduce the frequency of flooding at Cowley Bridge, susceptible to the River Exe, is the most significant of the schemes, which will cost £31 million in total, given the vulnerable stretch was at the heart of last year's chaos.
Mary Creagh, Labour's Shadow Transport Secretary, said: "The Government promised communities in the South West £31 million of funding for rail resilience works.
"Yet this funding failed to appear in the Autumn Statement as expected. David Cameron's announcement today is just another rehash. Communities will believe that it is coming when they see it."
A DfT spokesman said the money was available now, adding: "The Government has today secured £31 million of funding to deliver the ten projects along the western route, including works at Cowley Bridge in Exeter, which will improve the railway's ability to withstand extreme weather."
Flooding was so bad on the western route last year that Network Rail was forced to pay-out £12.5 million in compensation to train companies because of cancellations and delays. Repairs cost a further £15 million. All this was before this year's floods.
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