Login Register

LIVE UPDATES: Dawlish homes crumbling into the sea after railway line destroyed

By WMNlynbarton  |  Posted: February 06, 2014

  • Damage to the railway tracks and road at Riviera Terrace and Sea lawn Terrace, Dawlish. Picture by Andy Styles

Comments (10)

The main railway track in the Westcountry is hanging by a thread after the sea wall in South Devon holding up the line was washed away.

Powerful waves have thrashed the exposed coastline rail track at Dawlish which carries the main line between Penzance and Exeter.

LATEST PICTURES: Devon and Cornwall could be cut off for six months by rail line 'disaster' at Dawlish

A 30 metre section of the wall supporting the track collapsed amid the pounding leaving the line suspended in mid air.

The closure of the line means Cornwall is effectively cut in terms of rail travel.

MPs from across Devon and Cornwall met Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and senior executives from Network Rail this evening.

South West Devon Conservative MP Gary Streeter said the meeting had been “positive” and that the Minister “has got the message about the urgency of the situation”.

Mr Streeter said Network Rail had pledged to “bring in some heavy muscle” and was moving in machinery which had been working on the Whiteball Tunnel refurbishment, near Taunton.

“We received a firm commitment to look at longer term solutions to address our resilience problem including possible alternative routes,” Mr Streeter said.

“I’m confident the Government has fully got a grip of it, we just need to keep the pressure on to ensure a solution is found.”

Cornwall Council leader John Pollard called for the Government to take immediate action to reinstate the lifeline link.

“We cannot afford any interruption to this vital rail link and the Government needs to act to ensure that repairs are carried out immediately," he said.

"Our road and air links continue to work well and Cornwall remains open for business, however the rail link is crucial to our economy and we need Government support now.

"We are similarly concerned that the vital link to the Isles of Scilly is maintained by sea and air.“

The terrible weather churned up the line and even in more sheltered parts of the line, heavy wooden sleepers were torn up by the winds.

Network Rail, which maintains the country’s rail infrastructure, said engineers would be assessing the damage - as soon as they could get close enough.

However with high tides occurring across the region this morning, coupled with strong, gusting winds it will be some hours before a full assessment is likely to be made.

In the meantime the organisation has posted photographs on Twitter demonstrating the precarious state of affairs.

Branch lines have also not escaped and First Great Western said this morning that St Ives, Falmouth, Gunnislake and Looe branch lines had their services temporarily suspended.

A reduced service is now running between Falmouth Docks and Truro and there are delays on the Gunnislake line.

The firm said no road transport can be provided as an alternative at present.

Network Rail has reported that the line at Looe has now been covered with water as high tide washed into the estuary.

First Great Western has warned that disruption on the line west of Exeter is expected until at least February 7.

South West Trains has warned it will be operating at reduced speeds on those parts of the network still operating.

Mr Pollard said the council was joining with other councils and business organisations to stress the importance of the rail link to the local economy and emphasise the pummelling Cornwall has suffered a series of storms during this winter.

“As a result of the recent storms some communities across Cornwall have suffered significant structural damage which will cost millions of pounds to repair," he said.

"Council staff are doing a superb job offering practical support and protecting people and the infrastructure but the growing list of damage means that we need the assurance that the Government will help.

"Cornwall Council and its partners are doing everything possible and the co-ordinated approach across the region in a example of what can be achieved.

"However, now we need money and action from national bodies to ensure that peoples lives can return to normal as soon as possible."


Read more from Western Morning News

Do you have something to say? Leave your comment here...

max 4000 characters


  • DaveyofCrnwal  |  February 06 2014, 10:47PM

    I am not a Civil Engineer nevertheless in the South West I have repeatedly seen abominations of poor design (and butchered modifications to what were originally quite good designs) that make me cringe. One botched job that I commented about resulted in the retort "Well its only a million pounds whadya expect?" When it comes to sea defences I think we need to hire the Dutch as it seems that over here we just cannot get the right staff. Personally my own guess is that a fifty or a hundred yard deep belt of large Tetrapods is needed. Incidentally forget the CAD as for this type of problem one really cannot beat the empirical results obtained from successful previous designs.

    |   2
  • WillWalker  |  February 06 2014, 12:19PM

    The re-opening of the Oakhampton line would NOT provide an answer to the need for a direct link to Newton Abbot, Torbay etc. Traffic should not have to go into Plymouth first to make a connection back to Bristol. As I remember the Cornishman used to use the Oakhampton line but the Torbay Express came down the Teign Valley line through Chudleigh. The only viable alternative for all is the old (1930's) proposed route from Cofton round the back of Dawlish and Holcombe to the Teign valley.

    |   2
  • Cundalini  |  February 05 2014, 9:09PM

    The case and clamouring for an alternative inland rail route grows louder and louder as each storm passes!

    |   3
  • Cundalini  |  February 05 2014, 9:07PM

    The case and clamouring for an alternative inland rail route grows louder and louder as each storm passes!

    |   3
  • locallad9  |  February 05 2014, 7:04PM

    Someone started an e-petition on Re-opening Okehampton-plymouth line PASS THIS ON 10 signatures already... http://tinyurl.com/pws7u6c

  • locallad9  |  February 05 2014, 6:43PM

    As i said earlier this URGENTLY NEEDS BRING BACK TO ATTENTION!!!! http://tinyurl.com/nze2b7y

    |   1
  • electrician22  |  February 05 2014, 5:25PM

    The whole of the South West is now cut off from the country's rail network and will be for some months I suspect. There is no alternative route thanks to Dr Beeching. This is where rail investment is needed! Not on getting a few businessmen to Birmingham 20 minutes quicker.

    |   11
  • The Consultancy  |  February 05 2014, 12:30PM

    "The firm said no road transport can be provided as an alternative at present." Why not?

    |   4
  • locallad9  |  February 05 2014, 11:46AM

    To just have one main line into cornwall/plymouth is simply pathetic. The Oakhampton line needs reopening completely through tavvy and bere alston right into plymouth then beyond,most of the line is in place just tavvy needs a few miles of track..all network rail have is a failing PLAN A of Dawlish,,no Plan B or C.LOBBY ALL TO GET THIS LINE RE-OPENED.

    |   8
  • moorejohn  |  February 05 2014, 11:33AM

    Writing from ten miles inland from Dawlish and having the advantage of family living in Devon for over a century and me remembering it from the 1930s can assure you that the reason of claimed 'Climate change' and 'Rising Sea Levels' were not mentioned by the Great Western Railway in 1939, having purchased the required land, were about to commence a new inland route with inland stations for Dawlish and Teignmouth. Unfortunately other events happened later that year...and there has never been the money to continue and the proposed route has been built over. All plans and information can be seen in 'Exeter -- Newton Abbot; A Railway History' by Peter Kay and published by Platform 5 1991. It is in the Devon County Libraries

    |   10