NETWORK RAIL has warned that another storm last weekend has delayed the repairs on the Great Western Main Line at Dawlish, where destruction caused by storm tides has cut off Plymouth and Cornwall from the rest of the rail network.
It had been hoped to restore the line by March, but the new date is now more likely to be the middle of April. Network Rail said it will be 'working night and day with dedicated resources' to get the work done as quickly as possible.
Last weekend's storm caused more damage, increasing the scope of the repairs. However, Network Rail said the first defences which it had installed, including a,line of 11 steel freight containers loaded with sand and stones, had reduced the potential impact and helped prevent further damage to the houses nearby.
But Network Rail also warned that its timetable for repairs still depends on the weather. The storm on the evening of 14 February almost halted work, with only three hours achieved before the rising waves and spray made it impossible to continue. The savage tides that night also enlarged the main breach in the sea wall by another 30 per cent.
Engineers have since laid concrete foundations at this breach and also at the secondary breach at nearby Dawlish Warren. They have also started to repair the down platform at Dawlish station and clear more debris from the coastal route. To protect the site, 15 steel containers -- weighing around 70tonnes each -- have now been installed to form a temporary breakwater, and a scaffold bridge has also been built to reconnect services and signalling equipment.
Patrick Hallgate, who is route managing director for Network Rail Western said: “We are all conscious of the importance of this railway to the South West, its economy and the people of Dawlish. They have been tremendous in supporting our team and understanding of the challenges we face. We are confident that we will have the railway back by mid-April and if we can we will beat that date."
First Gteat Western managing director Mark Hopwood added: "We appreciate Network Rail's efforts to work round the clock to get the line reopen so we can resume services as soon as possible.
"Until the line reopens we are running trains between Exeter and London and between Newton Abbot and Penzance with bus services linking these, to keep our passengers moving.
"We will be ready to run services once Network Rail completes the work and until then we will do everything we can to minimise disruption."
To allow everyone to witness the progress of the restoration, Network Rail has set up a live video feed.