Network Rail South West flooding compensation cost revealed

Network Rail has paid more than £12m in compensation to train and freight operators

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Railway line flooding - described as the worst in a decade - on the south-west of England's rail network has resulted in about £12.5m in compensation being paid.

The payments, from Network Rail, were made to train and freight operators because services could not run due to the damage caused to the lines.

The mainline near Exeter was closed for 11 days in November and December.

Network Rail said the amount reflected the "significant disruption" caused.

"It's a significant amount of money and one that's been unprecedented in the last 10 years in the South West," said Mike Gallop, Network Rail's director of route asset management in the West.

Start Quote

In terms of the cost of putting things right, we're looking at something in the order of £10-15m in the South West”

End Quote Mike Gallop Network Rail

As well as the mainline at Cowley Bridge, near Exeter, being affected by floods, many of the region's branch lines - including those extending to Looe and Newquay in Cornwall, and Barnstaple and Exmouth in Devon - were also damaged.

Mr Gallop said: "The Barnstaple branch line suffered significant problems with washouts of track.

"It took much longer to get back into service than the mainline between Exeter and Bristol.

"We also suffered severe flooding on the Looe branch line."

He said there were still problems with the stability of the cliffs in Teignmouth, in south Devon, which were being addressed.

'More resilient'

"In terms of the cost of putting things right, we're looking at something in the order of £10-15m in the South West," he said.

"It was the wettest summer in 100 years followed by a very, very wet autumn and winter, which led to the problems towards the end of 2012."

The compensation has been paid to operators including First Great Western and CrossCountry.

Mr Gallop said his company was looking at how it could make the railway network "more resilient to flooding".

"Network Rail is looking to make sure the tracks and electronics we have in the signalling systems are able to withstand the floodwater, so, when it recedes, we can start running trains much quicker than we did last time."

The company is also facing a compensation claim from the Cowley Bridge Inn, which is next to the railway line near Exeter and was flooded.

Workers repair the building Almost six months on, the inn is still clearing up after three floods

Inn manager Peter Lavers-Mason said plastic dams or booms, used by Network Rail in a bid to protect signalling, caused the pub to flood by an extra 6-8in (15-20cm).

"The natural flow was impeded so it [the water] was backing up.

"It got into our electrics, all the cooker systems. We raised our fridges off the ground after the previous floods, but, because more came in, all our new fridges were totally ruined."

Mr Lavers-Mason said the water level was 3ft (90cm) deep at its peak.

Almost six months on, the inn is still clearing up after three floods which affected the pub.

Cowley Bridge Inn Peter Lavers-Mason said the third flood in December was the worst

Mr Lavers-Mason said so far £35,000 had been spent on repairs, although staff had managed to reopen the inn.

He said he contacted Network Rail about the flooding and received a letter from the company saying its claim handlers were investigating the case.

Mr Gallop said: "We have a well-established procedure for dealing with claims against Network Rail and that matter will be dealt with by our insurers as any other company would."

Mr Lavers-Mason said: "If it did flood again, there's a good chance the pub would be sold on for other uses."

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