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Celebrations as Dawlish rail re-opening signals South Devon truly open for business

By Herald Express  |  Posted: April 03, 2014

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TOURISM business across Torbay and South Devon will be celebrating the reopening of the Dawlish line tomorrow.

It has been estimated that tourism businesses in South Devon lost millions of pounds worth of early spring business because of the perception that the area was cut off and flooded.

Carolyn Custerson, the chairman of VisitDevon and chief executive of the English Riviera Tourism Company, said: "The reopening of the Dawlish line, which is one of the UK's iconic coastal rail journeys, is absolutely fantastic, with Friday's re-opening restoring consumer confidence and sending out long-awaited positive media coverage that Devon and Cornwall is truly open for business.

"But it is critical moving forwards that the inherent weaknesses in our rail and road network are seriously addressed if we are to achieve our economic potential.

"Long-term investment must be secured to not only protect resilience but also in improving access to the region overall with Devon one of the most popular main and growing short break holiday regions in the UK.

"Tourism generates £2.6billion for the Devon economy and provides 73,000 jobs and, with this in mind, I am looking forward to seeing the Government's recommendations in the report due out in July."

The re-opening of the line was vital for Torbay not just because of the number of visitors who arrive in the resort by train, and the resort's links with London, but for those tourists who make trips into the Bay from holiday areas like Teignmouth, Dawlish and Dawlish Warren by train.

Torbay MP Adrian Sanders welcomed the £2million Government cash for businesses to help them better promote themselves and the area in future. He lobbied for this cash help.

"It helps the marketing effort of the whole of Devon and Cornwall to the rest of the world that we are open for business," he said.

Mr Sanders, who is due to be on the first London train to arrive in Dawlish tomorrow, said Network Rail had used the opportunity to make sure the line would not be easily breached in future.

"The work done was not just to the line which collapsed, but Network Rail has used the opportunity to shore up other sections, and to extremely high standards.

"This isn't a patch-up job, this is a proper rebuild. That's why it has taken it so long and I think we will all benefit in the long run from them doing that.

"It certainly should stand the test of time and, if the breakwater barrier idea off Dawlish can be shown to work, that would clearly add extra protection for decades to come."

But there is still further work that could be done, he said.

"If the plan is to improve our connectivity with the rest of the country then there are things that can be done in the shorter term like improved signalling and points, improving line resilience to the east and north of Exeter, which can improve journey times and punctuality."

He said proposals for alternative routes avoiding Dawlish were 'decades away' however electrification of the line was achievable.

"There is no reason they could not electrify that line with overhead cables. The engineering challenges are surmountable.

"It could take 30 to 60 years and I think it is realistic to start the campaign now for the line from Reading to Penzance. I am raising it at every opportunity I can."

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