David Cameron has declared the South West “back open for business” today as trains run again on the region’s storm-battered rail line.
The Prime Minister is expected among special guests as Brunel’s iconic coastal route reopens in time for Easter after 300 engineers worked around-the-clock.
The PM is among many to welcome the re-opening today with Carolyn Custerson, Chair for Visit Devon adding:
"We are delighted that the train line is now re-open through Dawlish. Devon is one of the UK’s top holiday destinations - welcoming over 36 million visitors a year and supporting over 74,000 jobs – and many tourism businesses have suffered as a result of the closure. Bookings leading up to Easter are estimated as being 23% down and current reckoning is the crisis has cost the county around £31million. I would urge anyone looking to book a break to support Devon this year, especially in light of the fantastic weather predicted for us."
Watch a live stream from Dawlish below
Yesterday Mike Gallop, Network Rail's director for the western route, praised the engineers, dubbed locally as the 'orange army', who worked for 50 days non-stop.
He said: "We are just starting a major engineering study to improve the resilience of the Exeter to Newton Abbot line.
"This will look at things like marine erosion and cliff landslips.
"It will be a major piece of work taking about 18 months to look at how to improve resilience.
"This will see what interventions could take place, the costs of them and how long it would take to do the work."
He said the team were looking forward to celebrating a successful repair programme.
Mr Gallop said: "It's a big week for us. We are now looking forward to getting the travelling public back on the railway."
The 24-hour-a-day working has seen engineers laying 5,000 tonnes of concrete and has involved 120,000 man hours, without accident, to get the line ready for opening.
"It has been a big task turning it from a construction site back into an operational railway," said Mr Gallop.
"From March we had a landslip to deal with where 30,000 tonnes of material failed which posed a serious issue to restoring the railway.
"On this we have been working 24 hours a day using innovative techniques from the china clay industry with a high pressure water cannon.
"This has been the last piece of the puzzle and this week we have been renewing signalling and relaying the tracks at the Teignmouth cliff site.
"The scale and speed at which we have had to act has been unprecedented and the damage to the lines was unprecedented for more than 120 years.
"It has been a two-month programme to recover the railway and it has been a challenge to do that safely in at times horrific weather and within the timescales we set ourselves."
Yesterday it was announced the closure of the rail line has cost the county more than £30m and has led to a big reduction in Easter bookings.