Exeter railway tunnel 'needed to speed up journeys'

Train on the Dawlish to Teignmouth line Trains in Dawlish can get splashed by waves

A railway tunnel should be built under a hill near Exeter to divert the main line away from a vulnerable coastline route, a Devon MP has said.

The line at Dawlish, which goes along the town's sea wall, can be hit by high waves.

Plymouth Moor View Labour MP Alison Seabeck said a tunnel under Haldon Hill would lower risks to the line from any climate change and speed up journeys.

Network Rail said the line in Dawlish was resilient to adverse weather.

Similar plans for a tunnel were first unveiled in the 1930s, but were abandoned after the outbreak of World War II.

'Trade-off'

Ms Seabeck said: "What's the comparison between putting a tunnel under Haldon Hill or trying to make the railway line along Dawlish waterfront viable.

"There will be a trade-off, but it could be that a tunnel is a cost-effective solution.

"Mainline trains go straight through Dawlish. The question is as to whether it makes sense to have the Intercity trains going on a different route."

Independent rail consultant Neil Mitchell added such a tunnel could be important for business in Devon and Cornwall.

He said: "There is a tendency in London to think that Plymouth is a pretty little seaside fishing port.

"There is very little comprehension that it's a major industrial city, as well as very little comprehension to the extent that Cornwall and the hinterlands of Devon have some very sophisticated industries in them.

"We have to send a message to government that it matters that we have connectivity down here."

Network Rail, which owns the infrastructure, said the Dawlish sea wall was resilient to adverse weather.

However, it added that work was under way to safeguard its future and manage any impact from a changing climate.

It said that a study carried out in 2009 proposed that "improvement work be carried out by the next decade to enhance the sea walls to maintain the coastal route".

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