TDC Liberal Democrat Group Statement on Network Rail's Plans for Teignmouth and Holcombe Beach
We welcome the fact that Network Rail are working to improve the resilience of the coastal railway. The Teignbridge District Council Liberal Democrats Group recognises the importance of this line, not only to the entire South West, but also to our own coastal towns.
However, there are a number of concerns about the specifics of the design of the various sections, and the impact on the local environment and amenities.
Serious concerns have been raised by communities across the resort towns of Dawlish and Teignmouth that the Network Rail project programme is flawed, and that an iconic piece of historic railway infrastructure - one of the most admired and photogenic sections of railway anywhere in the world - is to be altered beyond recognition through poorly conceived planning. Network Rail’s project team has come forward with designs that are both sub-optimal and brutalist in design.
Insufficient weight and value appears to have been placed on environmental issues. The impact to the biodiversity, amenities, and in particular the beaches is unknown and very concerning. The quantum and degree of acceleration of loss of beach material that a higher seawall would generate through ‘scouring’ is also unknown. Furthermore, evidence has yet to come forward to demonstrate that any consideration has been given to the safety of the public using the beach or waters adjacent to a higher, reprofiled structure bereft of safety features.
It is well established that the best sea defences have three elements, a sea-based breakwater or reef, a beach and a seawall. The current ‘big wall’ design has been targeted at the cheapest form of 100-year protection but since the projections for climate change impact are highly variable, a more holistic, flexible approach should now be considered. The then prime minister’s promise of ‘money is no object’ must not be allowed to be forgotten.
We would therefore request that a review be immediately undertaken and - in conjunction with local stakeholders and councils – alternative designs be considered to better defend the railway, to improve public safety and to reduce the injurious impact on local communities and businesses.
A review should examine other options for rail resilience that could perform better over a longer time frame, including the defence of the railway through beach re-charging and/or off-shore protection structures. Such suggestions - alongside other more radical cost-saving proposals for the section of line between Dawlish and Teignmouth - could benefit Network Rail by delivering not only greater line resilience and service reliability, but by encouraging more members of the public to travel by rail for the enhanced experience our coastal railway resorts could offer.
Cllrs Alan Connett, Sheila Cook, David Cox, Huw Cox, Alistair Dewhirst (Deputy Leader), Alison Eden, Lorraine Evans, Alison Foden, Linda Goodman-Bradbury, Robert Hayes,Gordon Hook (Leader), Jackie Hook, Nina Jefferies, Chris Jenks, Richard Keeling, Andrew MacGregor, Sally Morgan, John Nutley, Charles Nuttall, Colin Parker, John Petherick, Linda Petherick, Dave Rollason, Andrew Swain, Gary Taylor, Martin Wrigley