The evacuation of a CrossCountry Voyager during the evening of September 13 is a timely reminder of the South West’s need for a railway fit for the 21st century.
That is the message from the Peninsula Rail Task Force after passengers were detrained from the 1707 Manchester Piccadilly-Plymouth, which was cancelled between Dawlish and Teignmouth after being hit by a wave.
The Task Force is campaigning for a series of improvements designed to ensure the region doesn’t lose out due to disruption caused by inadequate infrastructure.
PRTF Chairman Andrew Leadbetter said: “Last night’s incident at Dawlish with the train evacuation because of the severe weather is a timely reminder of just how urgent this situation is becoming. The rain was heavy, and the sea was not calm, but our rail network needs to be able to withstand a summer storm without issue.
“We cannot afford to take these situations lightly - and it is all the more reason that our campaign needs to keep up the pressure on the Government to invest.”
The PRTF has launched a consultation for its interim report on the South West rail network. Called On Track, the report sets out the vision for the peninsula and the first steps required to achieve the programme of work that it says will improve the network over the next 20 years.
Leadbetter said: “We have been campaigning and pressing the Government to deliver a programme of improvement for the South West rail network, creating greater resilience, faster journey times and increasing capacity. Our priority is to achieve a railway fit for the 21st century, fit for our residents, commuters and visitors.
“The Department for Transport has asked us to work with Network Rail to look at what might be needed to achieve our goal and to set out the individual projects required. This is a demanding body of work to undertake, so we are planning to complete by next summer.
“Given the game-changing nature of our proposals, it is important that we provide an update on our progress so far, so that everyone has the opportunity to understand the plans, and we can also ensure that these proposals will meet the needs of our communities.
“We need to keep challenging Government to invest in the West and commit to connectivity here.”
The report will be presented to Rail Minister Claire Perry in October.