One rail line reopens east of Exeter as travel chaos continues
One of the rail lines east of Exeter has now reopened with trains running a reduced speeds.
The lines running through Castle Cary and the more southerly one through Crewkerne between Exeter and London were shut in the aftermath of the terrible weather yesterday.
However, Network Rail said the landslip at Crewkerne had now been cleared.
A spokesman said close inspection of the site on the railway between Yeovil and Exeter has revealed that it is safe to run trains at a reduced speed.
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This has allowed a limited service to begin between Exeter and Waterloo this afternoon, with the first train departing Exeter at 12.25.
Work is progressing to get diverted trains from the more northerly Westbury to Paddington line moving over the Yeovil route as soon as possible.
Elsewhere in Somerset, the routes from Bridgwater and Castle Cary are still under water caused by the flooded River Parrett and are being monitored by Network Rail engineers.
Meanwhile, work to protect the damaged sea wall site in Dawlish from the sea is going well in between high tides.
A row of shipping containers is being put in place and filled with rubble to provide a breakwater, while concrete spraying has continued, in order to protect the vulnerable sub-soil.
Yesterday, rail travel was not possible east or west of Exeter after the terrible weather caused a landslip and closed the railway line in Somerset.
First Great Western said the main line between Exeter and London was closed at Crewkerne and trains were being diverted to Bristol Parkway.
The firm said buses would be laid on from there to Exeter.
There was no word on the seriousness of the landslip or when it would be fixed.
Commuters in the Westcountry already face the substantial disruption to the main line service after the line was washed away at Dawlish.
Network Rail has confirmed that it is in discussions with the Ministry of Defence to see if the military can help.
The Western Morning News is leading demands for the Government to end years of rail misery in Devon and Cornwall by funding a service fit for the 21st century.
Against at least six weeks of disruption, which will cost the region’s economy dearly, MPs argue it is time to end the South West’s Cinderella rail status and build a new route more resilient to extreme weather.
They say just a fraction of the £42 billion earmarked for HS2 – the high speed link between London and the north – would pay for an alternative to the luckless coastal route.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced a “rigorous review” of alternatives to the coastal Great Western line, raising hopes of dusting off a £100 million inland link to avoid storm damage.
Engineers believe the Dawlish line will be down for at least six weeks amid warnings major delays on the only rail route into Devon and Cornwall will cost the regional economy tens of millions of pounds every week. Other sources suggest it could be months before the line is back to normal.
Around 80 metres of the sea wall was destroyed by high tides and stormy seas, causing a significant stretch of railway to collapse into the sea.
The road adjacent to the railway and several houses has also been damaged, as was Dawlish station itself and several other sites in the area.
Rail and concrete sleepers that once carried trains along the sea wall have been cut away and placed across the bottom of the damaged section.
These are gradually being reinforced with sprayed fast-drying concrete, which will form a temporary barrier to take the brunt of today’s forecast heavy seas, Network Rail said.
“It is hoped this will absorb enough of the force of the waves over the next 24 hours so that the weakened sub-soil, which is very soft, will not erode further,” a spokesman said.
“The most damaged platform at Dawlish station has been demolished and will be rebuilt in the coming weeks.”
Network Rail is asking the public to stay away from the area, as the combination of heavy machinery, concrete spraying, and the waves means it is not safe to be around.
“Engineers are working in very difficult conditions with work taking place on a six-hours on, six-hours off basis, designed around the tidal patterns,” the spokesman said.
“Full assessment of repairs will come with calmer weather after the weekend, along with a revised timescale.
“Initial assessments are that it will be at least six weeks to completion from when work begins.”
Network Rail has mobilised a range of specialist contractors, engineers and suppliers from across the country to help with the work needed at Dawlish.
It has also taken up the offer of discussions with the Ministry of Defence to see if there is any help which can be provided by the military.