MPs debate vulnerability of Exeter to Tiverton rail line
Disruption to rail services which left Devon cut-off from the rest of the country was 'unacceptable' according to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
It came as Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw stressed to the Cabinet Minister the urgent need to tackle problems at Cowley bridge where the mainline was shut by flooding.
This was reinforced by Tory MP for Tiverton and Honiton Neil Parish who said a "substantial job" was needed to that stretch of track, and highlighted the threat of flooding in future years.
Following a meeting with the Secretary of State, Network Rail, which is responsible for the track, has been carrying out a study aimed at shoring up the vulnerable mainline.
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Mr McLoughlin had also arranged for Network Rail to brief the area's MPs early next month.
The Prime Minister has also pledged the Government will do everything it can to safeguard the rail link.
Raising the issue in the Commons, Mr Bradshaw asked the Secretary of State: "Between the end of November and the end of December, Devon and Cornwall were effectively cut off from the rest of the country by rail for two periods lasting more than a week each. That is not acceptable for rail travellers or our economy.
"Will he impress on Network Rail the absolutely urgency of tackling the problem at Cowley bridge in Exeter, which is the cause of most of the problems?"
Responding, Mr McLoughlin said: "The situation that people in the South West faced over that period was unacceptable.
"It was the result of weather that we do not see often. I have talked to many members who have made representations to me on that, and I have asked Network Rail to give a briefing to members from those areas. That will take place in early February, and I hope he will attend."
Mr Parish said: "The Tiverton to Exeter line is extremely low and will be affected by flooding not only this year, but in future years.
"A substantial job needs to be done on that particular track of rail, so I urge the Secretary of State to do as much as he can to get Network Rail to put a package in place."
The Transport Secretary said: "I accept what he says and I hope that he will come to the meeting I am organising with Network Rail, which I will also attend.
"I am trying to break it into regions in the parts of the area served so that members can discuss their concerns directly with Network Rail."
Pressed over the rail disruption on the line at Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron said; "I am well aware of how bad the flooding was and I went to Buckfastleigh to see how badly the town had been flooded for myself.
"We are working with Network Rail to improve the resilience of the overall network and we will do everything we can to ensure that these important services are maintained, even when they are challenged by floods such as those we saw last year."
Video: Engineering work at Cowley Bridge due to the floods. Video by Mike Yearworth.