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Pledge to repair flood-hit rail line

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 09, 2013

Transport Minister Norman Baker visiting Exeter yesterday

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The Government has ordered railway officials to improve the Westcountry's vulnerable network after heavy flooding left the region marooned last year.

Network Rail, which manages the track, is to review 40 rail blackspots on the Western Route that cost up to £20 million to patch-up after a series a storms.

Top of the list is Cowley Bridge, near Exeter, on the Great Western mainline, which was flooded three times late last year, leaving the region annexed.

Chris Aldridge, Network Rail's principal strategic planner on the Western Route, told the Western Morning News: "We are drawing up a plan to help combat these types of events in the future because they will happen more and more."

Transport Minister Norman Baker, visiting Exeter yesterday, promised to put "urgent pressure" on Network Rail to make long-term improvements at Cowley Bridge. He said: "We have to work hard to make the South West rail network more resilient to cope with future demands."

The revelation came as the rail body unveiled a £5 billion improvement plan that offered no major upgrades in the far South West.

But bosses claimed easing bottlenecks at Reading stations and electrification to Bristol would have knock-on effects for passengers further down the peninsula.

Exeter Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: "Given Devon and Cornwall have been cut off from the rest of the country for between a week and ten days twice in the space of a month recently it is imperative that action is taken to address the flooding problem at Cowley Bridge."

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