(Photo from National Rail)
Dawlish has taken a battering in the latest storms. Marine Parade is a mess with ballast washed into the road and rails ripped up, part of the wooden station platform has been destroyed, and worst of all, there’s a 90 foot breach in the sea wall east of the station leaving the tracks suspended in mid-air.
Looking at the picture above, I can see why there are estimates of the line being closed for up to two weeks.
Here’s the same location in happier times. The middle coaches of the train are at the point of the breach in the wall.
With global warming bringing more storms this is only going to get worse. In the long term it may prove necessary to abandon this exposed coastal section and construct a new alignment further inland. In the shorter term I think it’s time to look at reinstating one of the two alternative routes closed in the 1960s as diversionary routes for whenever the main line is closed.
While the branch from Exeter to Newton Abbot via Heathfield may never have been viable, it does look as though closing the former Southern Railway line from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock was a very short-sighted decision.
According to Nigel Harris of Rail on Twitter, the estimated cost of rebuilding the old SR route is £250 million. The cost to the south-west’s ecomomy of having the Great Western line closed for the extended period over which it’s likely to be closed has been estimated at £500m. I think you can do the sums.