Travel is a vital part of our everyday lives and it is therefore crucial that the correct infrastructure is in place to accommodate our transport needs. Over two years ago, Network Rail started the extensively drawn-out process of consulting with the public on their proposals to enhance the resilience of the railway between Parsons Tunnel, near Holcombe, and Teignmouth.
Across two consultations in summer 2019 and winter 2020 they met almost 5000 people at 21 public events and received over 2000 responses. When they shared the outcome of those consultations in October last year, Network Rail committed to a detailed evaluation into the fundamentals of that scheme. Since then, they have been reviewing the feedback received and identifying what additional survey and investigation work is required to shape the revised proposed solution. Work is underway this month (August) and will continue throughout the remainder of 2021 and into 2022.
I am pleased to hear that, over the coming months, teams of engineering experts will use state-of-the-art technology including satellite and radar surveys and new drilling techniques to conduct detailed investigation work into the landscape and material of the cliff including its sub-surface water saturation and drainage. The first part of the analysis started in July and will focus on topographic surveys. These trials are vital to Network Rail’s investigation work at this location, where achieving an understanding of the behaviour of the cliff area is difficult.
Once this activity has been completed, there will be a further round of consultation. A public inquiry may follow, although this can only be decided by the Secretary of State for Transport, not Network Rail. I am disappointed by the delays in the project and am struggling to find the reason as to why Network Rail didn’t undertake these surveys before publishing their initial proposals.
Meanwhile at Dawlish, the final panels at the outside of the phase 2 wall have now been installed and Network Rail have started fitting the recurve sections on top of the wall and the track side wall panels. They have installed front and rear panels, and are now filling the void between the two wall panels – already they’ve installed more than 8,000m3 of low carbon concrete which will save 1,130 tonnes of CO2 compared to traditional concrete.
Finally, at the Coastguards end, Network Rail will start creating the new steps and access down onto the beach, continuing into the autumn.Whilst the Government has also confirmed that the funding is available for project longer term, I will continue to engage with the Rail Minister to ensure that the funding remains available for the vital upgrades needed on the line.
Turning to roads, it was great to receive the news back in May that the Department for Transport had awarded £38m to Devon County Council to go towards the road improvement scheme on the Drumbridges to Newton Abbot section of the A382. As part of this final phase of the A382 corridor project, a new dual carriageway will be constructed between Drumbridges and the Trago Mills roundabout, and the A382 will be widened between the Trago Mills roundabout and Forches Cross, increasing capacity and easing congestion.
The Jetty Marsh II connection will provide a new road between Whitehill Cross and West Golds Way, and a shared pedestrian and cycle path will ensure that pedestrians and cyclists will also enjoy better journeys. The total cost of the scheme comes to £44.85m, with Devon County Council providing the remaining £6.7m. Work on the scheme is due to start in 2024 and is expected to be completed by early 2026.
Both the rail and road projects are long-term investments but it is great to see them progressing towards completing much needed improvements.
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