Current News

Five years after the Dawlish line closure and the Government announces funding for the first phase of major resilience works (15/02/19)

Five years after storms destroyed the Dawlish rail line the Peninsula Rail Task Force (PRTF) welcomes today’s announcement by Chris Grayling, Secretary of State, of £80 million in funding to commence the first phase of major resilience works to the Dawlish sea wall.

The combined events at Dawlish, the closure of Cowley Bridge and the flooding of the Somerset Levels devastated the peninsula economy in 2014, costing the South West an estimated £1.2 billion.

Councillor Andrea Davis, PRTF Chair said: “We have always been clear that Dawlish is our top priority and this is the first step towards seeing a resilient railway in the South West.

“The Secretary of State has been continuously quoted as saying that Dawlish is the number one rail priority for the Government and this is evidence of its good intentions. Chris Grayling’s commitment is a positive step, which we welcome.

“It is essential that the rail line remains open to protect the South West’s economy. The line’s vulnerability during adverse weather cannot be allowed to dictate the level of service endured by passengers in the region.”

Network Rail has been working with world-leading experts to find solutions to ensure resilience of the line at Dawlish.

PRTF now looks forward to the physical delivery of the project proposed by Network Rail to increase the height of the sea wall to 7.5m, a project that will yield a long awaited solution to the vulnerability of the section at Dawlish.

The next priority for Network Rail and the Government is to deliver plans and funding for resilience works from Parsons Tunnel to Teignmouth, which the PRTF will continue to campaign for.

Councillor Davis added: “The announcement by Chris Grayling of funding on Friday 15 February is a good step forward. We look forward to working with Network Rail and DfT to guarantee the South West has a long-term solution and a plan of action to deliver a reliable and resilient rail network.”


The Peninsula Rail Task Force welcomes Rail Minister Jo Johnson on Cornwall visit. Friday 13/07/2018

The Peninsula Rail Task Force (PRTF) were pleased to welcome the Transport Minister Jo Johnson to Truro, Cornwall on Thursday 12th July as they discussed priorities for rail infrastructure investment in the South West.

The minister reiterated the Government’s continued commitment to improving the rail network for passengers in the South West. During the meeting with the PRTF he welcomed the news that Network Rail was ready to launch the next phase of key resilience work on the route between Teignmouth and Dawlish, as design studies by engineers neared completion.

The Government provided £15 million in funding after storms in 2014 damaged the line between Teignmouth and Dawlish. This enabled engineers to investigate long-term solutions that would protect the line in adverse weather.

Chair of the Peninsula Rail Task Force, Councillor Geoff Brown said: “I’m really pleased we had the opportunity to meet the Minister, and relived that he has confirmed the plan for Dawlish.

“I’m convinced that the Government is taking Dawlish seriously after our efforts to press for more detail. The Secretary of State, Chris Grayling also said exactly the same: it is the number one priority. So, we look forward to seeing the funding, to do the work as soon as the design study work is complete.”

“We have also raised the importance of improving WiFi and connectivity on the route from Penzance to London because even when you take reduce journey times, it still is a long journey. If you have the ability to work on the train productively with good connectivity it is attractive to businesses and visitors travelling to the south west.”

Jo Johnson said: “We are investing in the biggest modernisation of the Great Western Railway since Brunel built it more than 150 years ago, giving passengers what they want: faster, more frequent and more comfortable services.

“But it is vital we find a permanent solution to the problems at Dawlish because it is a crucial link for the people and the economy of the South West.

“With funding from government, world-leading engineers have been carrying out detailed ground investigation to understand what is happening to the cliffs and coastline in 3 key areas around Dawlish and Teignmouth. These comprehensive studies are nearing completion, enabling Network Rail to show later this year how they will take the next steps to protect the railway line and coastline.”

Read the full story here.

Peninsula Rail Task Force: Statement regarding damage at Dawish. Friday 02/03/2018

Peninsula Rail Task Force Chair, Councillor Geoff Brown said: “The adverse weather conditions, damage and subsequent disruption seen at Dawlish over the last couple of days underlines the urgent need for investment in a resilient line.

“Storm Emma has caused the railway between Dawlish and Dawlish Warren to sustain substantial damage and whilst there is apparently no structural damage to the sea wall, a length of fencing and the associated coping stones have been damaged.

“A large amount of ballast has been washed across the track along a 150m length of railway. Network Rail Engineers are working to remove and replace the ballast. Dawlish station itself has suffered minor damage, with wooden panels and handrails washed onto the track and a small section of the platform has been damaged.

“The PRTF would like to commend Network Rail’s Team Orange which is working around the clock to ensure the railway can reopen, which at this time is anticipated to be within the next 24-36 hours at the earliest.

“It does not however make this situation acceptable, and we urge the Government to deliver on its promises far more quickly, rather than rely on patching repairs. Our communities cannot rely on the promises of resilience in the future – we’ve been waiting since 2014.”

Network Rail: Dawlish update. Friday 02/03/2018

Following visual inspections this morning we can confirm that the railway between Dawlish and Dawlish Warren sustained damage last night as a result of Storm Emma.

There is no structural damage to the sea wall, and the integrity of the railway itself has not been damaged, which is testimony to the quality of the strengthening works Network Rail delivered in 2014.

However, 10-15m of fencing and associated coping stones has been damaged, some of which is now lying on the railway. This needs to be made safe and Herras temporary fencing put in place. A substantial amount of ballast has been washed across the track along a 150m length of railway. Network Rail Engineers are now working to remove and replace the ballast.

Dawlish station itself has suffered minor damage, with wooden panels and handrails washed onto the track and a small section of the platform damaged. Network Rail is working to make the damage safe; clear up the station and cordon unsafe areas off in advance of station reopening.

Team Orange will be working round the clock to make the railway safe so that it can reopen. There will be no services on this line today and we will issue an update later today confirming when we expect to reopen this section of the railway. Currently reopening is anticipated to be within the next 24-36 hours.

Peninsula Rail Task Force: Statement regarding DfT’s response to the 20 Year Plan ‘Closing the Gap’. Wednesday 28/02/2018

Following the long-awaited official Government response to the 20 Year Plan ‘Closing the Gap’, PRTF Chair Councillor Geoff Brown said… Read the full story here

Transport Select Committee – Rail infrastructure investment Tuesday – 27/02/2018

Peninsula Rail Task Force (PRTF) Chair, Councillor Geoff Brown spoke to Westminster this week as he reiterated the Task Force’s ambition to have a fit for purpose rail network in the South West… Read the full story here

Peninsula Rail Task Force: Great Western Franchise Consultation response – Thursday 22/02/2018

Responding to the Great Western Franchise Consultation the Peninsula Rail Task Force (PRTF) reiterates its ambition to deliver a fit for purpose rail network for its passengers across the peninsula, with emphasis on achieving resilience, faster journey times and greater comfort and capacity. Our concern, like that of our many stakeholders, is to understand how any of these proposals outlined in the consultation document will help achieve our clear priorities.

We have been clear that we are not looking for a change in the franchise geography, but instead changes in infrastructure, timetables and train fleets which will consequently transform the levels of service to the PRTF region. We would expect the franchise specification to form part of the government response to the 20 Year Plan “Closing the Gap”, which the PRTF presented to Government in November 2016. Closing the Gap identifies outputs, which would be delivered through the franchise, such as two trains per hour between Paddington and the South West and replacement rolling stock for regional and local services.

We consider it important that franchise holders recognise the need for these objectives to work towards delivering the three priorities set out in the 20 Year Plan. Whilst the PRTF welcomes the majority of the objectives outlined in the consultation, it is vital that we can understand how the expected changes to the franchise contribute to the three priorities.

The PRTF has identified that resilience sits as the South West’s number one priority, and this needs to be added as a franchise objective. Without resilience the region’s rail network will slowly grind to a halt – leaving many of the objectives outlined unattainable. The PRTF’s three priorities:

A resilient and reliable railway
Protecting the Dawlish mainline is key to maintaining continuity of service for our communities, businesses and visitors, even during extreme weather events. The South West’s economy cannot hinge on the inevitable occurrence of another storm, Network Rail has been clear that the probability of events at Dawlish and surrounding areas will increase by 600% by 2065 – a one in four year event. Combined, the collapse at Dawlish and flooding on the Somerset Levels in 2014 cost our economy an estimated £1.2billion. We cannot afford numerous hits on our economy.

Therefore the PRTF and its passengers expect:

• Trains that can and do work efficiently through all weathers
• Minimal service disruption
• A reliable mobile and WiFi network for its passengers, with a consistent signal for at least 90% of the journey

We welcome the proposal in the Network Rail Strategic Business Plan to invest £35m in works to improve the railway’s resilience to extreme weather in particular at Teignmouth, Dawlish and other flood-prone areas, as part of a long term commitment to improving resilience. Collaboration between the franchise operator and Network Rail is essential to deliver this resilient infrastructure

Faster journey times and improved connectivity
As we have stated, research has shown that productivity falls by 6% for every 100 minutes from London and a journey time reduction of 60 minutes would create a £1.2 billion uplift in GVA for the peninsula. The South West has the potential to thrive economically but remains untapped until improvements are introduced.

We welcome the proposal in the Network Rail Strategic Business Plan to improve track condition between Totnes and Hemerdon as the first stage to enable higher line speeds and reduce journey times to Devon and Cornwall. Enhancements could see speeds improved from 60mph to 75mph, improving reliability and punctuality of rail services for passengers in the South West, leading to a reduction in journey times of three minutes. The PRTF welcomes the emphasis on closer collaboration between the franchise operator and Network Rail and expects the next franchise to progress delivery of the PRTF infrastructure needs.

There is also the immediate need for fleets to run reliably, reduce journey times through effective timetabling and improve connectivity between the rail network and other modes of public transport.

Sufficient capacity and comfort for our passengers
Passenger growth in the South West is exceptional and at 128% over the last 21 years, is over twice the national average and it continues to grow. Greater capacity through increasing the frequency of the trains as well as the number of seats can exploit this growth, driving economic expansion. There is the requirement for greater intra-connectivity within the South West, ensuring sufficient car parking, smart ticketing, signage and catering deliver the end-to-end journey experience expected by passengers.

The new Hitachi trains can provide the first ‘smart’ intercity service in the country, providing reliable mobile and WiFi connectivity throughout the journey to encourage a travelling office.

The PRTF will endorse a franchise that understands the issues that the region faces on a daily basis. Putting its passengers first through the delivery of a resilient service is paramount. Any train operator is only as good as its infrastructure and we urge the Department to address these issues as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Geoff Brown

Peninsula Rail Task Force: statement in response to DfT’s announcement on GWR franchise – Wednesday 29/11/2017

Cllr Geoff Brown, Chair of Peninsula Rail Task Force said:
“We are pleased to see that the Department for Transport has opted to extend the franchise for Great Western Railways, creating vital stability and certainty. It will enable passengers to gain the full benefits of the new fleet of intercity express trains right across the South West network which, together with a range of other planned improvements, will make our rail services better, faster and more resilient.”

“I welcome the consultation announced by the DfT today. This provides an opportunity for us to consult with our stakeholders on the important role the next franchise will play in continuing to improve our railways. We will look closely at the potential benefits for passengers from having a smaller franchise area. However, if this means that the South West continues to lag behind the rest of the country in terms of rail provision whilst investments go elsewhere, simply because our franchise area has been reduced, then we will consult our business community, passenger groups and work with our local MPs to ensure the DfT reconsiders.” 


Peninsula Rail Task Force: Operational Statement – Tuesday 21/06/2016

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Chair of the Peninsula Rail Task Force said:
“I can confirm that we have opted to reschedule the publication of the 20 Year Plan report until after the summer. We need to make the strongest possible case to Government for rail improvements. To do this, we require information that is not yet in the public domain.

“The publication of the latest economic data, journey time study findings and the Dawlish resilience study, are all scheduled in the coming weeks and rescheduling the publication of the report will allow the work on these topics to be finalised.

“The report is a complex document, which needs to take into account contributions from a diverse range of partners including Network Rail, the Department of Transport, local authorities, the LEPs and other agencies, as well as our communities and businesses. We have only one opportunity to make the strongest case we possibly can to the Government for rail improvements: it is therefore essential that we get it right.”


Last chance to comment on rail plans for the South West – Monday 23/05/2016

This week sees the end of the consultation on the Peninsula Rail Task Force’s draft 20 Year Plan for rail improvements across the South West. Launched earlier this month, the plan sets out the vision for rail connectivity across the peninsula and potential improvements to achieve this over the next 20 years…. Cont.


Rail Task Force calls for feedback on 20 year vision for the rail network – Friday 06/05/2016

The Peninsula Rail Task Force has launched the consultation on its 20-year plan for the South West rail network. The plan sets out the vision for the peninsula’s rail connectivity and the potential improvements needed to achieve this over the next 20 years…. Cont.


News from South Devon Railway – Wednesday 10/02/2016

South Devon Railway Winter Steam Festival will go ahead as planned as a speedy recovery is undertaken to clear a landslip caused by storm Imogen. Staff at the South Devon Railway have been working against the clock to clear and repair the tracks in time for the half term festival which will go ahead as advertised. More information on the South Devon Railway can be found at:


Press statement from TravelWatch SouthWest CIC – Tuesday 09/02/2016

In response to the news that GWR will be commissioning and funding the Network Rail Study the Government asked the Peninsula Rail Task Force to prepare for this summer.

TravelWatch SouthWest, the region’s passenger watchdog, calls for Network Rail’s duties to include “improvement” so studies like the one which GWR is funding, become a standard part of their route studies.

TravelWatch SouthWest welcomes the announcement that GWR will be commissioning and funding a Network Rail study into what can be done to the existing rail infrastructure to improve linespeeds and maximise the benefit of the new trains GWR are introducing between London, Devon and Cornwall. Without the study, a report the Government asked the Peninsula Rail Task Force to prepare for the summer, outlining a realistic aspirational plan for the route, would have been missing a vital component… Cont.


Response from Peninsula Rail Task Force – funding announcement – Tuesday 09/02/2016

“We are pleased that the funding has been found to explore the potential for faster journey time and electrification for the Peninsula Rail Task Force report. We alerted DfT about this issue in December, so it is helpful that this has finally been sorted, and our sincere thanks to our MPs who have been so active in this regard.

The Task Force has been working with the Department of Transport and Network Rail since last summer on planning the report and naturally Great Western Railway has been a key partner in our work.The support from GWR enables us to fulfil our joint commitment to a detailed and rigorous document, which is something that all of agreed was required from the outset. We are grateful to GWR for its timely intervention.

It is clear that after a weekend of substantial disruption, our railway network is long over due investment. Our report is a crucial step towards achieving a rail network fit for the 21st Century. ”


Mind the Gap – call for crucial funding for rail report – Thursday 21/01/2016

The Peninsula Rail Task Force (PRTF) is calling on the Transport Minister to step in and provide crucial funding for two network rail studies that will form part of the evidence for investment into the South West rail network.

Chair of the PRTF, Cllr Andrew Leadbetter said:

“When we were invited by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State to put forward our plans for the South West rail network, we were pleased that our issues of poor connectivity were finally being recognised… Cont.