The study commissioned by the DfT identified and costed eight alternative solutions in addition to the 'do-nothing' base case:

  • Option 1 Base Case
  • Option 2 Strengthening the existing railway (£398m-£659m)
  • Option 3 Alternative Route A - the former London & South Western Railway route from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton (£875m)
  • Option 4 Alternative Route B - constructing a modern double track railway on the alignment of the former Teign Valley branch line from Exeter to Newton Abbot (£470m)
  • Option 5 Alternative Route C - five alternative direct routes would provide a new line between Exeter and Newton Abbot:
    • Alternative Route C1 - new route between Alphington and Ware Barton (£3.10Bn)
    • Alternative Route C2 - new route between Exminster and Ware Barton (£2.51Bn)
    • Alternative Route C3 - new route between Exminster and Ware Barton (£2.25Bn)
    • Alternative Route C4 - new route between Exminster and Bishopsteignton (£1.56Bn)
    • Alternative Route C5 - new route between Dawlish Warren and Bishopsteignton (£1.49Bn)

All the costs include a 66% contingency uplift. Network Rail have calculated the benefit/cost ratio for each option, based on a narrow view of just the immediate rail transport benefits, ie reduced travel time, increased or reduced operating costs, and savings on compensation costs to operators and reduction in lost revenue by having a diversionary route instead of rail replacement buses. The assumption has been made that the coastal route will be maintained so there are no savings in future maintenance or from avoiding future reinstatement of the coastal route. No account has been taken of potential gains to the economy of SW England which might flow from certainty of operation of the rail service.

None of the alternative solutions offers a BCR of greater than 1 on this basis, let alone the BCR of over 2 that would normally be required for the investment to be made. In fact the highest BCR is 0.29, for the Teign Valley route; however it is not certain that this route is feasible. It was also found that a local service via the Okehampton route (which is assumed would be double track) would fail to cover its costs, so this was excluded from the appraisal as it would worsen the BCR. The various options for a new route between Exeter and Newton Abbot would save between 3 and 6 minutes in journey time for a fast train, but require significant tunnelling, which drives the high cost.

Whilst the report identifies the risk factors impacting the current coastal route, there is no indication that any risk assessment has been done to define the probability of these risks occurring or the impact that they could have. Although the study has been carried out in conjunction with local stakeholders, there is no indication that any assessment has been made of the level of service required during disruption of the coastal route, which might have led the study to consider the costs and benefits of a single track diversionary route.

Network Rail make no recommendation for a preferred solution but plan to take the results of the study forward into the Western Route Study. A draft of this will be published for consultation later this year. Network Rail will continue to develop proposals in collaboration with stakeholders for reinforcing the existing railway through Dawlish.

Regional stakeholders are continuing to assess the wider economic impacts of the events of February 2014. Railfuture call for a stakeholder conference to agree the levels of service required to develop the economy of SW England, both in normal operation and during weather disruption or planned work, so that the true requirement and wider benefit case can be assessed.

Parliamentary statement

Network Rail West of Exeter Route Resilience Study report