NETWORK RAIL has brought forward the date of reopening the severed main line at Dawlish by almost two weeks, to 4 April.
But one of the company's route managing directors has warned that there is still 'a great deal of work' to be done elsewhere.
NR said innovative approaches to sea defence and round-the-clock working by a team of more than 300 engineers have already seen huge amounts of rebuilding completed along the damaged seafront. The main 100m breach has been repaired, using nearly 5,000 tonnes of concrete and 150 tonnes of steel, while a new 200m track has been prefabricated and is ready to be laid.
Network Rail also confirmed that it is 'acutely aware of the value of the railway to the economy of the south west of England and has been working closely with local authorities, business groups and transport providers in and around Dawlish to ensure that disruption is minimised'.
The company said that restoring the through route to Torbay, Plymouth and Cornwall in time for the busy school holiday period would provide a welcome boost to the regional economy as business and tourism return.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “I saw for myself the scale of the damage to the line at Dawlish caused by the recent exceptionally bad weather. The confirmation that the line should now be back in operation before the Easter holidays will be a real boost for local communities and businesses. I know that Network Rail staff have been working tirelessly. I would like to thank everyone for their hard work so far.”
Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail’s Western route managing director, added: “We are determined to complete this work in time for the school holidays to support the vital tourism trade in Dawlish, South Devon and across the south west of England. An unfortunate event like the one experienced at Dawlish shows how important the railway is to the region’s people and its economy and I hope our efforts to restore here show how seriously we treat that responsibility.
“Even when Dawlish is complete, a great deal of work remains elsewhere. First we will bring the railway back to full capacity, then we will create solutions that will protect this vital national asset for the future. We are tackling that process head-on.”