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17.10.14

Government may review report into alternative routes at Dawlish

The government may review the cost benefit analysis from the controversial Network Rail report that effectively ruled out building an alternative railway to the vulnerable coastal route at Dawlish, an MP has claimed.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin spoke to the All-Party South West Rail Group yesterday and said that “the cost benefit analysis produced on the alternatives needed to be changed,” according to the group chair, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw.

As previously reported by RTM, the West of Exeter Route Resilience Study, produced by Network Rail at the request of the government, examined a number of possible options for the region, in light of the collapse of the line at Dawlish following the winter storms. The options ranged in cost from £400m to £3bn but after examining the government’s benefits and costs ratio (BCR) for each option none of them met the threshold of ‘value for money’.

However, according to Bradshaw, this may now be revisited.

“On Dawlish, he [McLoughlin] acknowledged, in response to a question from me, that the cost benefit analysis produced on the alternatives needed to be changed because they don’t fully take into account the wider economic benefits of providing an additional line,” Bradshaw said. “This was particularly important because the cost benefit produced for the current consultation judges all the additional route options as ‘unaffordable’.

“A number of MPs and peers raised this and I cited the example in Scotland where the old line between Edinburgh and Galashiels in the Borders is being reopened where the cost benefit is less than an additional line avoiding Dawlish would produce.

“Mr McLoughlin promised to get back to me on this point.”

RTM asked the Department for Transport to confirm whether the government plans to revisit the report and was told that while the secretary is sympathetic to the view that BCRs could take into account more of the wider economic benefits that could be delivered, he was not committing to revising this particular one.

The spokesperson added: “As the transport secretary has previously said, we are absolutely committed to delivering world class transport infrastructure in the South West. That means ensuring there is no repeat of the disruption we saw earlier this year during the severe weather.

“It is right that the benefits of major infrastructure projects are maximised, and we are looking at how this can be factored into our assessment of future schemes.”

(Image: c. Ben Birchall/PA Wire)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Brian   17/10/2014 at 16:26

Were another breach to occur this winter would NR make a U turn?

Richard Thomasson   18/10/2014 at 05:26

The line through Okehampton and Tavistock is the obvious choice not only providing an alternative through route but bringing Tavistock back onto the rail network.There are relatively few physical obstacles on the route and the assertion that the meldon viaduct is somehow beyond repair needs challenging.

Nick Clare   18/10/2014 at 12:06

I agree with Richard Thomasson. I seem to remember that the Ribblehead viaduct on the S&C was beyond repair several decades ago. It seems to be still carrying heavy coal trains today without a problem! Also look at the high standard of structural refurbishments being done on the Waverly route.

John   19/10/2014 at 13:25

The key is to use tracks of closed or "mothballed lines" where the Permanent Way engineering works still exist. This is the case on the Waverley route and mostly true on the Oakhampton route. What IS desperately needed is a severe pruning of all the Consultancy Fees, Legal Bills and general slush fund considerations!!

John   19/10/2014 at 13:26

The key is to use tracks of closed or "mothballed lines" where the Permanent Way engineering works still exist. This is the case on the Waverley route and mostly true on the Oakhampton route. What IS desperately needed is a severe pruning of all the Consultancy Fees, Legal Bills and general slush fund considerations!!

Eric Cambs   19/10/2014 at 20:45

Utterly unnecessary. The Dawlish line isn't busy at the best of times. A guided busway along the motorway would suffice.

Gabriel Oaks   21/10/2014 at 13:01

Reinstatement of a route via Meldon could provide the cheapest means of a connection albeit of potentially limited capacity; this would mostly benefit Plymouth and Cornwall if the route through Dawlish was blocked. However, under such circumstance the quicker alternative between Exeter and Teignmouth, Newton Abbot & Torquay (etc) would probably still be rail-replacement buses. Meldon viaducts are the most significant structure on the route (the two single-tracked structures are interlaced giving the appearance of one) and hopefully at least one could be made servicable. The route between Meldon and Yeoford is not in NRIL ownership but has a 50mph Safety Authorisation. Compared to the high cost of a completely new railway, the Meldon route must remain an attactive possibility.

Paul   24/10/2014 at 18:53

I think if the government made a grant to the county council (who own much of the trackbed) to reinstate it as a "semi-preserved" railway like the Dartmoor line to Okehampton and the soon to reopen Swanage northern extension, using local contractors for basic civil engineering tasks, it could be done for about a tenth of some of the prices banded around. A single line with 75mph line speed and loops at Okehampton and Bere Alston is all that is needed for an hourly local service and, by exception, diverted intercities. Mechanical signalling with signalboxes at Okehampton and Bere Alston using token block and NSKT machines at the NR Crediton and St Budeaux interfaces would be incredibly cheap. Strengthening of Meldon to allow a 30mph speed limit over it is surely not beyond the wit of man. It is, after all a lattice structure that lends itself to such strengthening. Similarly a North Cornwall Parkway station at Sourton (the A30/A386 interchange) would attract a significant traffic from North Cornwall (eg about 20 minute drive to Launceston along the A30. Essential to this would be regular through services to London. A shuttle to Exeter would be a flop. However extension of the Waterloo - Exeter services comprising 2/3 car 159s would be quite easy logistically. Longer trains would divide at Exeter Central, with front portion going forward and rear portion returning to London (or maybe going to Barnstaple to give North Devon a London service again?). Trains could run hourly to Sourton Parkway and two hourly onto Plymouth.

Tony   14/11/2014 at 16:44

I couldn't disagree more with Richard Thomasson. The Okehampton route is not an effective permanent option. By having this and assuming that the Dawlish route would close it would deprive most of South Devon with direct links to the north - what would that do for the local economy? Of course the bypass from Exeter to Newton Abbot would have a lesser effect but it will be extremely expensive. What about constructing an effective offshore breaker in the risk areas to reduce the effect of large waves? The sea from the breaker to the shore could take on lagoon features. I'm sure that this could be a less expensive option!

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