The communities and businesses of south and west Devon and Cornwall were celebrating today as their rail link with the rest of the country was restored in time for the Easter holidays, following eight weeks of painstaking repairs to the storm-ravaged railway at Dawlish.
Mark Carne, chief executive, Network Rail, said: “Our army of engineers has done an amazing job of putting back together a railway that was ravaged by the elements.”
He added: “They have overcome every obstacle thrown at them, winning many battles along the way to restore this critical piece of the
network, ahead of schedule, and in time for the Easter holidays.
“The biggest thanks must be reserved for passengers and local communities and businesses who have been hugely supportive and patient over the past two months as we worked flat-out to rebuild this vital rail link.
“Our focus now moves to the medium and long-term looking at what can be done at Dawlish to make the current coastal route more resilient and, by the autumn, understand what the best viable relief route might be.”
Network Rail’s army of 300-strong engineers, known locally as the ‘orange army’, has battled for over two months to overcome the damage.
During the work, the team built a temporary sea wall from 18 welded shipping containers to protect homes and engineers as they worked to repair a 100m breach at Riviera Terrace, Dawlish, following storms on February 4th and 14th.
The line was rebuilt and fortified with more than 6,000 tonnes of concrete and 150 tonnes of steel.
UK prime minister David Cameron said: “This is a great day for the hard-working people of Dawlish, and for businesses and commuters across the south-west whose lives have been turned upside down by the devastating loss of their train line.
“Back in February when I visited the town to see the damage for myself, I promised to do everything I could to get this vital artery back up and running as quickly as possible.
“I am delighted to say that promise has been delivered today
With the most critical phase of the restoration now completed and the line reopened, engineers will now move to the less critical phase that includes fully restoring the signalling and electronic equipment – currently a normal service is running with some minor retiming owing to a temporary signalling solution being in place.
The shipping container temporary sea wall will also be removed, while the rebuilding Brunel’s original sea-wall at the breach site using original stone and craftsmen repairing will also begin.