A Devon council is calling for more government funding to improve rail lines after all routes into the West country were cut off.Rachel Sutton, acting leader of Exeter City Council, said “significant” new money was needed to keep routes open.
Flooding and a landslip blocked three lines in Somerset on Saturday, cutting off Devon and Cornwall from the UK network. The lines remain closed.
Weather and flood warnings are still in place for much of the south-west UK.
Ms Sutton said rail lines were blocked near Exeter 12 months ago because of flooding and government funding was needed to protect lines which were “vulnerable in a number of places”.
“The local authorities can’t do this on their own, particularly when we’re having to cut back because of cuts to our grant from central government,” she said.
Network Rail said a landslip at Crewkerne and flooding near Bridgwater and Athelney meant there were “no routes to the West Country open to trains”.
It said the Yeovil-Exeter line at Crewkerne would be closed for “at least a week”, and it was “too early to say” when the Bridgwater section would reopen.
“The floods are currently being blown into waves by the high winds in the area, which are washing away the stones the track rests on,” a spokesman said on Saturday.
“The route via Athelney is under water but will be assessed as soon as the flood level drops.”
In Dawlish, where the main line between Devon and Cornwall was destroyed by waves on Tuesday, concrete has been sprayed on to the cliff behind the track to make the area safer in the face of continuing high winds and large waves.
Network Rail said work at the site was “progressing well” in six-hour shifts in between high tides.
However, Dan Panes from First Great Western said the weather was hampering efforts to repair the track.
He added that it was going to take four to six weeks to sort out, however that timescale was changing each day due to the weather conditions.
“As soon as we get the green light from them [Network Rail] we’ll be running our services again but it’s a tough time for Network Rail at the moment,” he said.
Strong winds and heavy showers affected much of the UK, especially southern areas, on Saturday and into the early hours of Sunday, with gusts up to 80mph on the coasts of Cornwall, the Bristol Channel and west Wales.
‘No end in sight’
Peter Sloss, of the BBC Weather Centre, said the wind and rain would ease for most of the UK during Sunday, with showers “less heavy and less frequent”.
He said the improvement would continue into Monday, though falling temperatures would mean some wintry showers.
But he said there was “no real end in sight”, with another area of low pressure reaching the UK on Monday night and into Tuesday, bringing more heavy rain.
He also warned flood waters could continue to rise as rainfall worked its way through river systems.
The Environment Agency has issued three severe flood warnings – which mean “danger to life” – two in Somerset and one for Chiswell in the Isle of Portland.
The agency has also issued more than 180 flood warnings and almost 300 flood alerts.
A Met Office yellow warning for wind covering much of southern England and south Wales expires at 12:00 GMT, but further rain warnings have been issued for Tuesday and Wednesday.
In other developments:
- A pedestrian underpass in Purley, south London, is to be turned into an emergency pond to collect 600,000 litres of floodwater and prevent it from flooding 400 under-threat buildings including a water treatment plant
- The prime minister is to hold an emergency Cobra meeting later over the flooding crisis
- In Surrey, the River Thames has burst its banks at Chertsey. Home owners have been warned to expect flooding
- Rail passengers between London and Kent are facing fresh disruption because of a landslip at Meopham in Kent
- The Environment Agency is moving more staff from north-west England to flood-hit areas further south
- Flybe is increasing its number of weekday flights between Gatwick and Newquay in Cornwall to six from three
- Fire crews are dealing with rising floodwater which is threatening an electricity substation at Burghfield near Reading. They are bringing in a high-volume pump from Hertfordshire because Berkshire’s pump is being used in Somerset. The substation is thought to serve about 40,000 homes and businesses
- The Ministry of Defence has put 1,500 personnel on notice to help with the aftermath of flooding in southern England if needed