Passengers in the South West will benefit from more reliable train journeys thanks to a new £82 million government-funded sea wall protecting the vital coastal rail route in Dawlish.
In a visit to Devon, Transport Secretary Mark Harper attended Dawlish station to mark the completion of the wall and officially open a brand-new railway station at Marsh Barton, near Exeter – two projects that will boost local and regional connections, helping grow the economy.
As a key transport artery for the South West, the projects demonstrate the government’s commitment to the region and its continued investment in infrastructure to help grow the economy.
The new, rebuilt sea wall will protect the safety of local passengers from extreme weather conditions along the coast. It has been completed in two phases, with the latter stage protecting the Grade II Listed Dawlish train station.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: I am delighted to see the completion of two major projects today, delivering a government commitment to improve a vital rail route for passengers in the South West.
“These projects demonstrate a government that is delivering our promises, investing in vital infrastructure and improving transport connections to help grow the economy.”
The work in Dawlish forms part of the £165 million South West Resilience Programme and delivers on a government pledge to create a more resilient railway following devastating storms in 2014, which damaged the tracks beyond use for eight weeks and disconnected passengers from the network.
The completion of the works marks a major milestone for the programme and will offer a promenade and new public areas for the local community. Ongoing work by Network Rail also continues to develop a new, accessible footbridge with lifts at Dawlish Station.
Further cliff protection work, to deliver two additional phases of the programme, continues at pace including a rockfall shelter at Holcombe, along the coast from Dawlish.
Michelle Handforth, Regional Managing Director of Network Rail’s Wales and Western region, said: “I’m delighted that we could be joined by the Secretary of State for Transport to mark the official opening of the sea wall in Dawlish.
“Working with world-leading engineers and with funding from the government, we’ve been able to protect the railway line and town of Dawlish for generations to come.
“I’d particularly like to thank the Dawlish community for their patience and support while the construction took place close to their homes and businesses over two-and-half years.”
In Marsh Barton, the Secretary of State also attended the official opening of a new, fully accessible, station which will be managed by Great Western Railway and serve the popular Exeter to Plymouth rail line.
Great Western Railway Managing Director, Mark Hopwood said: “New stations such as this are vital in bringing the railway closer to people as we become mindful of the need to live and travel more sustainably. Marsh Barton will help to ease congestion on some of Exeter’s busiest roads and offer a more environmentally friendly option for those who normally drive into the area.
“Marsh Barton is one of three GWR stations to open this year along with Portway ‘Park and Ride’ in Bristol and Reading Green Park, and we are excited for the benefits these stations will bring to the local economy, to residents, businesses and leisure travellers in the areas they serve.”
Delivered and funded by Devon County Council, with contributions from the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership and Exeter and Teignbridge District Councils and over £3 million from the Department for Transport, the new station will better connect the community and offer greater access to employment, business and education opportunities. Crucially, it will also provide a quick, alternative link to Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, allowing residents to access essential medical services more easily.
Cllr Andrea Davis, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, said: “It is extremely satisfying to see Marsh Barton railway station become a reality. Despite a number of setbacks and challenges over the years we have persevered and remained committed to this project to ensure more people in Devon have access to sustainable transport links, helping to tackle congestion on our roads, improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions.
“This is the third station we have helped to deliver in the county over the past eight years, following new stations at Newcourt and Cranbrook, as well as the opening of the Dartmoor Line between Exeter and Okehampton.
“Marsh Barton Station is another major improvement to the rail network in Devon and we’re honoured that the Secretary of State can join us to mark this occasion. Thanks go to all of the partners involved for their efforts that have made this scheme possible and we’ve no doubt it will be very well used.”