They will be joined by the Heart of the South West Local Economic Partnership, the Cornwall Local Economic Partnership, the region's MPs, Travelwatch South West and South West Chambers.  A delegation of council leaders from the Task Force, and business leaders from the region, gave evidence to the Transport Select Committee of MPs in Westminster today on the effect of rail disruption on the regional economy.

Councillor Tudor Evans, leader of Plymouth City Council, called the rail line through Dawlish a 'Peruvian rope bridge' to underline the parlous state of transport serving the West Country.  'It isn’t enough to simply maintain the existing rail link, or to future-proof that link.  Plymouth along with Cornwall, Devon and Somerset deserve a 21st-Century rail link.'

The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport expects Network Rail’s report on alternative routes to Dawlish by July.  Mark Carne, the new Network Rail Chief Executive, expects the existing line to reopen sooner than the current forecast date on 17th April.

The Task Force are calling for an urgent feasibility study into the best options for providing network resilience against disruption at Cowley Bridge/Stoke Canon, the Dawlish/Teignmouth seawall, and on the Somerset Levels.  They also want commitment to fund improvements to the rail service to reflect the sharp rise in passenger numbers:

  • increased capacity
  • sufficient rolling stock
  • increased capability of Exeter-Waterloo line as diversionary route
  • reduced journey times
  • electrification beyond Bristol and Newbury

Railfuture support the Peninsula Rail Task Force and call for a stakeholder conference to agree the level of service required during disruption from storm damage, flooding and planned engineering work.  The Government and ORR must then commission Network Rail to plan alternative routes to ensure continuous availability of a rail route to serve the South West, and commit to funding implementation of that solution.

Please register your support for the Railfuture campaign for rail network resilience in the south-west.