Investing in the railway - Transport Contents

7  Resilience

61. Storms at Dawlish on 4 and 14 February 2014 caused a 100m breach in the sea wall, exacerbated by a 25,000 tonne landslip at Teignmouth and a further landslip on 4 March. The railway line, which ran just behind the sea wall, was closed for eight weeks while 300 engineers repaired the line at a cost of £35 million. Mark Carne, Network Rail Chief Executive, told us in June that around half of the money spent to repair Dawlish was met from insurance, and the other half was from Network Rail's own resources.[215] Network Rail told us that it thought the rail network had "performed well" during the 2013/14 winter, but argued that the weather during the last control period (2009-2014) was "far worse and caused far more delays than expected".[216] Network Rail has stressed that while investment will make the railway more resilient to weather, it cannot make it weather proof.[217] There is no specific fund for weather-related contingencies for CP5.[218]

62. Paul Plummer described Dawlish as "an extraordinary situation" which, despite the site being on the agenda of Network Rail, nobody had expected "to happen in that extreme way".[219] The closure of the line has been estimated to cost the economy in Plymouth alone over £600,000 a day.[220] Tracey Lee argued that it should be "a basic right to have a railway line that is not severed", and that keeping the line through Dawlish open through future winters would cost "at least £350 million" in resilience work.[221] The Minister said there was a "question" around whether the investment in resilience could be delivered in CP6 or during CP5.[222] In July Network Rail published a West of Exeter Route Resilience Study looking at sustainable routes between Exeter and Plymouth. The study proposed five options, including continuing the current maintenance regime, strengthening the existing railway, and three alternative routes costing between £470 million and £3.10 billion.[223] The study estimated the benefits and costs of the alternative routes. The DfT assessment criteria rank investment proposals with a benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of greater than 4.0 as offering very high value for money; schemes with a BCR of less than 1.0 are considered to offer poor value for money. None of the alternative routes received a BCR of higher than 0.29.[224]

63. Witnesses questioned whether these assessment criteria were correct. The Peninsula Rail Task Force told us that Network Rail had "not prioritised wisely" when allocating investment on resilience.[225] Isabel Dedring told us that TfL had struggled to get Network Rail to accept its case for investment in resilience, as it was not valued correctly through Network Rail's current business case assessment process.[226]

64. We commend the work of the "Orange Army" of Network Rail engineers who rebuilt the seawall and re-opened the railway line at Dawlish, following the devastating storms. While the tireless work of the engineers limited the length of the closure of the line, the economic impact on the region was still severe. It is not clear whether the Treasury's cost-benefit assessments take the cost of such closures, or the cost of doing nothing, into account, when prioritising investment on resilience or alternative lines. We call on the Department to state whether it is prepared to fund schemes which do not meet the required cost-benefit ratio, if the alternative is a closed line. Where lines are closed, as in the case of Dawlish, the necessary costs incurred in re-opening the line should not jeopardise or delay the long-term work to improve the resilience of the network or deliver promised enhancements.

215   Evidence taken on 9 June 2014, HC (2013-14) 255, Q 30 Back

216   Network Rail (IRW0051) Back

217   Network Rail (IRW0051) Back

218   Qq28,30 Back

219   Q96 Back

220   Q275 Back

221   Q279 Back

222   Q496 Back

223   Network Rail West of Exeter Route Resilience Study (July 2014) Back

224   Network Rail West of Exeter Route Resilience Study (July 2014) Back

225   Peninsula Rail Task Force (IRW0027) para 12 Back

226   Q281 Back

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Prepared 23 January 2015