A £30MILLION-plus commitment to protecting the main seafront rail line into South Devon has been made by Network Rail.
Patrick Hallgate, western route managing director for Network Rail, revealed the commitment at a meeting of Torbay Business Forum when he gave details of the company's current plans for protecting and enhancing the region's rail network.
He pledged to protect the main route to the west via the main line through Dawlish — which he describes as one of the world's top 10 railway routes — and has confirmed the company is currently working with Devon's local authorities and other agencies to ensure there is no repetition of the problems caused by widespread flooding and landslides following last winter's heavy rainfall.
He disclosed there is currently a £31.5million programme designed to protect and enhance the existing route.
The cost to Network Rail of compensation payments made to train operators for delay caused by the disruption came to £1,241,613 for the problems at Teignmouth and Dawlish and £2,852,674 for the flooding problems at Cowley Bridge north of Exeter, something which the company is keen to avoid in future years.
Mr Hallgate told members of the forum that overall Network Rail is currently spending £2million a day on its enhancement programme, a figure that will increase to £3million a day from 2014.
The benefit of much of this spending will go to the planned electrification of the London/Bristol/South Wales line but the benefits will reach Devon as well.
The major redevelopment of Reading station is nearing completion a year ahead of schedule and is now leading to improved reliability and fewer delays.
He said the improvements will also benefit local services from Reading, Thames Valley to London, thus reducing the overcrowding currently seen on mainline trains from the west country between Reading and London.
He also revealed the proposed new station at Edginswell is one of three proposed new stations in Devon which are now a step nearer realisation.
Newcourt, near Exeter, has already been approved, leaving Edginswell and Marsh Barton as the two further candidates.
Mr Hallgate said Network Rail are working very closely with the county's local authorities, and he described Devon County Council as one of the best authorities in his region in terms of its approach to its transport policy.
He said the route network is in good shape to face the future and to deal with the current growth in traffic which has seen passenger numbers grow by 40 per cent in the last nine years and freight by 60 per cent.
Forum chairman Robert Newman said that both business and local residents in South Devon needed a reliable and regular service to London.
It was good to see Network Rail was working with the train companies and with local authorities to try to ensure that the problems of last winter would not be repeated.
It was particularly important to ensure that as much as possible of the investment currently being spent on railways should benefit the service to South Devon.