South West rail improvements welcomed by Peninsula Rail Task Force

Peninsula Rail Task Force comment

3rd December 2014

The Peninsula Rail Task Force has welcomed confirmation in the Autumn Statement that there will be investment into Dawlish to improve the resilience. The Statement announces:

2.205 Dawlish rail services – The government will support Network Rail in its work to improve the resilience of the railway at Dawlish. Additionally, it will ask Network Rail to examine wider issues surrounding connectivity to and within the south-west peninsula. Specifically, Network Rail will consider alternatives to the current mainline route to the south-west via Dawlish, including an alternative route via the north side of Dartmoor through Okehampton. This work will feed into Network Rail’s Initial Industry Plan for Control Period 6 (2019-2024).

The Peninsula Rail Task Force has been campaigning for three specific priorities for the rail network:

  • Resilient and reliable
  • With faster journey times, and better connectivity
  • And sufficient capacity and comfort.  

Chair of the Peninsula Rail Task Force, Councillor Andrew Leadbetter said: “We have been campaigning for a resilient line, with faster journey times and better capacity, and to give rail the vital investment it needs to operate effectively across our region.

“The news that there will be investment into resilience at Dawlish is certainly very welcome, and we have been clear that the line must be future proofed as a matter of urgency for the sake of our communities, our businesses and our economy. It is a national priority. No one wants to see, or indeed experience another winter like last year, but as the Met Office has said we can expect more severe weather and a repeat of incidents such as the one that severed our line. It is a relief that the Government has recognised the severity of the issue and we are pleased that making the Dawlish line resilient is a shared ambition.

“We are also pleased to hear yesterday that the Government intends to investigate in partnership with Network Rail and other stakeholders the wider connectivity issues that impact so heavily on the South West. Faster journey times and plans for electrification need to be considered carefully, and we expect them to form a crucial part of this study. 

“So, whilst we also welcome the announcement that the feasibility of the Northern Route will also be considered as part of the study, it is essential that we also see solutions that deliver faster journey times. There is a vital question that as yet remains unanswered: how will this route solve the serious capacity issue on the existing main line identified by Network Rail in the Western Route Study? We remain committed to ensuring that all of our priorities are met and this must include a solution that addresses the line speed and capacity issues between Newton Abbot and Exeter.”

Steve Hindley, Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, which is also a member of the Task Force, said: “Business has been maintaining that better connectivity is essential for growth. The adage time is money is true for a very good reason, and delays and congestion, crowded trains and patchy service all contribute to a brake on business expansion and prosperity.

“The commitment to connectivity from Government through the formation of a new partnership to look at options is therefore helpful, but we urge Network Rail and the Department of Transport to keep up the pace. We want to keep up the pressure to deliver a realistic set of solutions within as short a period of time as possible. We can’t wait forever to have a rail service fit for the 21stCentury.”


For more detail about our solutions please see below. You can also find more information at: or by contacting Coast Communications on 01579 352 600 /

The Peninsula Rail Task Force is a rail improvement campaign group comprising Cornwall Council, Cornwall and Scillies LEP, Devon County Council, Heart of the South West LEP, Plymouth City Council, Somerset County Council and Torbay Council.

More detail on the priorities is outlined below :

1) A resilient and reliable railway – getting to the starting lineDawlish -­‐  OUR LIFELINE 

WHAT: Enhance resilience of the existing coastal route

WHY:  Network Rail is obliged under the terms of its licence to maintain or renew old assets to a modern replacement standard capable of doing the same or better job. Dawlish is essential for our rail network to survive; however we cannot wait until 2034 for the route to be safeguarded. We need this as an absolute minimum.   COST: estimated £398 -­‐ £659m  

East of Exeter Resilience

WHAT: Lengthen loops on the Waterloo line between Exeter, Yeovil and Castle Cary and a longer term solution for Bridgwater, with a barrage for the River Parrett 

WHY: This will create greater resilience, providing a diversionary route to the mainline to London, and protect the line across the Somerset Levels

COST: estimated £100m 

2) Faster journey times and better connectivity -­‐ upgrading performanceImproving our existing network and rolling stock

WHAT: Through modern rolling stock from Thames Valley with greater acceleration and automatic doors, enhanced signalling and track improvements in Exeter, Westbury, Reading – London areas

WHY: Improved journey time, performance and timetabling capacity for faster and more frequent trains between London and the South West – Somerset, Devon, Torbay, Plymouth and Cornwall

COST: estimated £1bn 

Electrification – futureproofing  

WHAT : Continue the planned programme of electrification from Newbury to Paignton, Plymouth and Penzance and the cross country route through Bristol to Birmingham

WHY: As the last and only region without plans for electrification, no new diesel rolling stock will be procured, so we will be running on obsolete stock by 2043 and losing £73m a year through GVA

COST: estimated £2bn (plus 66% contingency)  

3) Sufficient capacity and quality – meeting passenger needs, growing expectationsWest of Exeter -­‐     Exeter to Newton Abbot

WHAT: An additional line between Exeter and Newton Abbot

WHY:  As shown by Network Rail’s Western Route Study, the mix of different speed trains on this section means it cannot accommodate sufficient services to meet demand, so four tracks between Exeter and Newton Abbot are required to meet capacity, providing additional resilience and reducing journey time

COST: estimated £1.49bn -­‐ £3.1bn

West of Exeter – Northern Route Metro Link

WHAT: Implementation of a northern route via Okehampton

WHY: Expand the Devon Metro network to provide new local rail connections to Exeter and Plymouth for

communities in West Devon and North Cornwall.

COST: estimated £350m -­‐ £750m

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