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Dawlish options assessment report due in November

Network Rail will complete its feasibility study into the long-term resilience of the rail route through Dawlish by April 2016, with an options assessment report available in November this year, the DfT has confirmed. 

Answering a parliamentary question from Johnny Mercer, Conservative MP for Plymouth Moor View, rail minister Claire Perry MP said: “The Peninsula Rail Task Force has also been asked to look at alternative routes including that via Okehampton and is due to report its findings in June 2016.” 

The Peninsula Rail Task Force is a rail improvement campaign group comprising Cornwall Council, Cornwall and Scillies LEP, Devon County Council, Heart of the South West LEP, Plymouth City Council, Somerset County Council and Torbay Council. 

In late 2014, RTM reported that Network Rail was to conduct a further feasibility study into a route via the north side of Dartmoor, through Okehampton, at the government’s request – despite warning earlier in the year that ‘Option 3’, as it was known, offered poor value for money, with a benefit-cost ratio of just 0.14 – far below the usual criteria. The new study was due to be completed by spring and was expected to form a part of CP6 spending plans. 

Perry added that the task force updated people on its work at a reception on Wednesday. RTM has contacted the Task Force for a comment on the progress, but at the time of publication had not received a reply. 

Last month, a study was published into the social consequences of re-opening the railway between Plymouth and Exeter via Tavistock and Okehampton. It was carried out by rail consultancy Greengauge 21 on behalf of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). 

Greengauge 21 director Jim Steer said the second route enhances the prospects for rail as well as keeping Plymouth and Cornwall connected if the route via Dawlish is disrupted by the sea or weather conditions. 

He said: “The Okehampton – Tavistock route is a case study that shows the appraisal of the investment needed to recreate a direct rail link in this region, which is remote from existing railheads, should reflect the changes in land use and economic activity that will likely follow. A rail service will help foster patterns of sustainable development in West Devon. With lengthy travel commuting distances, rail is particularly needed, and the prospects of increased non-car based tourism are another potential benefit. 

“In this case, the creation of a through route, rather than a branch line, will be crucial to attract the capital funding needed. This may well prove to be the case elsewhere, since avoiding stub-end branches improves service economics and allows Network Rail to offer rail service diversion rather than ‘bus replacement’ at times of major engineering works.”

(Image: Ben Birchall PA Wire) 

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