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Once more unto the breach

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Mail Online flood tourists, 11 Feb 2014After transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s photo-op on Friday, today it was the turn of prime minister David Cameron to visit the Great Western rail breach at Dawlish.

[‘Prime Minister David Cameron visits Dawlish’, Torquay Herald Express, 11 Feb 2014]

Mr Cameron made a whistlestop visit to the town as part of a tour of the South West that has been gripped by flooding.

Engineers are working six hour shifts between high tides to erect a temporary sea wall and getting to work on rebuilding the rail line, which should be open within six weeks, the Exeter Express and Echo reported.

[‘Network Rail bosses explain latest on Dawlish repairs as six week reassurance given’, Express and Echo, 11 Feb 2014]

Julian Burnell, governance and corporate affairs for Network Rail said that all workers are wearing life jackets and safety harnesses because of the sea location.

He added: “The other hazard that we face is there may be some additional movement in the houses [adjacent to the railway breach], so far our monitoring says they haven’t moved so we are keeping our fingers crossed for that.”

Mr Burnell said that plans for an alternative rail access to west Devon and Cornwall ‘were not even on the drawing board.’ (No surprise there, of course.)

He said: “This is the best route into the South West from a rail point-of-view, it remains the best, the most direct and the fastest and that is why it is the only one that still remains.”

But clearly, since there’s a big hole in Dawlish where the tracks should be, it isn’t “the only one that still remains”. Perhaps the numptyesque Mr Burnell is the Network Rail “source” who told Railnews that the company plans “to develop a strategy and scheme that will provide increased levels of resilience to marine erosion as part of the Western Route Climate Change Adaption Plan by 2019. Implementation is currently planned for 2019 to 2024.”

It would be interesting to know whether there even was a ‘Western Route Climate Change Adaption Plan’ in January 2014, and if so, what was in it. At the time of writing, there’s no trace of any such document online.

The Railnews article attracted some amusing ‘green ink’ comments, such as suggesting enclosing the tracks through Dawlish in a massive concrete box. Unless an ‘unconventional’ solution such as an offshore breakwater were feasible, the seafront route through Dawlish is likely to be increasingly difficult to maintain, and something like the GWR’s proposed avoiding line may be the way forward.

Obviously, the railway resilience issue is much larger than a few kilometres of track in South Devon. Reallocating the HS2 budget to the classic network would permit its capability to be massively improved.

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Written by beleben

February 11, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics

Tagged with , ,

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