The restoration of the Westcountry’s main rail link to the rest of England looks set to be delayed after it was damaged during a ferocious storm on Friday that battered the region.
Repair work at Dawlish – which has been closed since it was destroyed during storms almost two weeks ago – could be pushed past the originally forecast six-week completion date, Network Rail admitted yesterday.
Engineers from the rail authority are due to inspect the track in the coming days, but
a spokesman confirmed that further damage was inflicted on Friday night.
Network Rail had been hoping to install a base layer
of concrete foundation this weekend, but may now have to modify its design, as well as clear away the new damage.
A spokesman said engineers will continue to work around the clock, weather permitting, to restore the route.
The spokesman said: “The wall received further damage adjacent to the failure site,
and whilst the temporary
barrier held in place, significant additional damage was caused.
“The temporary sea wall performed heroically and remains intact, but there has been further extensive damage to the wall. This will clearly have an impact on timescales, but we won’t know till midweek what they may now be.”
The coastal town was one of a number to feel the full ferocity of the latest storm to batter the region overnight on Friday. Up to 30 homes were evacauted as a precaution in Sea Lawn Terrace in the town, as waves, measuring as high 90ft off Penzance, battered the region.
The southern coast in particular bore the brunt of the storm, which severed rail links in the region and caused more havoc on the roads. First Great Western was forced to suspend all services between Penzance and Newton Abbot on Friday due to widespread flooding and debris on the line. Services did not near fully reopen until yesterday afternoon, with replacement coach services unavailable due to the conditions on the roads caused by high winds.
The station at Penzance remains shut, with replacement bus services to nearby St Erth, due to damage to the signals caused by the storm. The Looe branch line also remains shut due to flooding.
Some passengers flying in to Exeter Airport were diverted elsewhere, with one flight returning from Tenerife being forced to land in Birmingham.
Maria Eagle, the shadow environment secretary, became the latest politician to pull on a pair of wellies and visit the region. The Labour MP visited Penzance, where she met with Cornwall Council leader John Pollard to discuss funding.
She called on the Government to explain why it hasn’t applied for EU help with the cost of repairs. She said: “In 2007 we made an application to the EU flood assistance and we got £127 million.
“It seems pretty remarkable that the Government said they weren’t going to make the application. I think if the money is there, which as a nation we have put in; I don’t see why we don’t use it.”
With the military beginning to be utilised in the clear-up effort, defence secretary Phillip Hammond said in the future the Government would involve the military much sooner and be more “aggressive” in urging local authorities to use troops.
Prime Minister David Cameron warned over the weekend that flooding could get worse in coming days,
because of the water falling
on already-saturated ground. Swathes of the UK remain on high alert as people battle to protect their homes and communities from floodwaters.