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Exeter railway services resumed ahead of schedule after Storm Angus damage

Normal rail services have resumed early in the south west after Network Rail successfully fixed the Exeter railway which had been damaged by Storm Angus, despite repair work being expected to take two days.

The railway at Cowley Bridge, Exeter, had been closed since the early hours of 22 November after flood water washed away track and ballast, causing disruption to Great Western Railway (GWR) services between Exeter St Davids and Tiverton Parkway. During this time, service was dependent on diversions and 40 replacement buses put on by GWR.

The route re-opened at 1pm yesterday, fifteen hours early. Network Rail’s route managing director for the Western route Mark Langman put the quick fix down to recent resilience improvement work to raise signalling equipment as part of the infrastructure owner’s Railway Upgrade Plan.

Langman said: “The amount of rainfall that fell on the south west on Tuesday was remarkable and I sympathise with communities that have been so badly affected. Equally remarkable is the achievement of the Orange Army in repairing the damage to the railway and getting the line reopened so quickly. The railway is vital for passengers, communities and businesses in the south west.

“We appreciate the patience shown while the work was undertaken and we now look to the future and ensuring the risk of a similar incident is reduced. The upgrade works carried out following the floods of two years ago have helped minimise the disruption on this occasion. We are committed to upgrading the railway in the south west further including a full solution to flooding at this location which is now in the final stages of planning.”

The recent placement of electronic signalling equipment on raised platforms was earmarked by Network Rail after previous flooding issues in 2012. These necessitated the reparation of the area’s entire signalling system and caused a three-week disruption to services at Cowley Bridge.

The resilience improvement work meant that this time, the signalling equipment was kept dry and only the ballast and track needed to be replaced by Network Rail.

GWR’s managing director Mark Hopwood expressed his relief at the early re-opening of the line, saying: “We have provided additional staff on the ground, and over 40 buses have been carrying passengers around the affected area, and we thank them for their patience shown in the last 48 hours.

“We recognise only too well the vital role rail plays in the local and national economy and we are pleased Network Rail has worked to reopen the line so quickly.”

As part of Network Rail's Railway Upgrade Plan, the line between Taunton and Exeter will see further measures being installed at Cowley Bridge and Hele and Bradnich, reducing the risk of flooding from one in every three years to one in every 20 years. Work is due to be complete by 2018.

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