The recent severe weather incidents have put the whole of the South West peninsula under extreme duress with our transport networks bearing the brunt as ever. Communities are isolated, businesses are suffering as our connection to the rest of the UK has been cut off.
This is not just an issue for rail – it’s our roads, it’s our flooded towns and villages and our resilience as a whole. We cannot compartmentalise these issues. For too long the South West has been regarded as an ideal holiday destination, but not a force for economic growth in its own right. This is not just an issue of letting countryside fend for itself – this is our towns and cities and our livelihoods.
We welcome the transport secretary’s announcement of reviewing alternative routes but this takes time. Whilst Network Rail has already deployed contractors, this will not be an overnight solution. We are cut off now. Dawlish is not just pretty coastal line : it is our main and only line out of Devon.
The current crisis highlights the reality for the south west and the need for urgent action.
We appreciate the fact that Network Rail has heeded our call from business, providing alternative transport whilst this work progresses, but this does not detract from our situation and relies on an already fragile road network. We need Government to address the issues of flooding, to increase investment into our fragile networks and improve our critical infrastructure.
With our partners across the peninsula, our request of David Cameron is:
- Immediate guarantee of the £31.3m flood resilience measures programme promised by Treasury in the wake of flooding at Cowley Bridge, but so far not in evidence
- Reinstatement of the route – in the short term by a fast coach service, but a sustainable, resilient solution that includes the construction of a breakwater at Dawlish as quickly as possible.
The cost to our economy is not yet calculable. Whilst our networks might be lacking in resilience, our communities and our businesses are keen to overcome these challenges but we need Government’s help to do this. We want to remain open for business and we will be resourceful in our approach. We are united in our desire to get our area back up and running as fast as possible, and start the real business of investment into the South West and achieving our potential.
The Heart of the South West LEP has joined the multi-agency team of officers developing the Flooding Action Plan for the Somerset Levels and Moors. The plan, requested by the Secretary of State by the 10 March, is to set out a coordinated strategy for addressing the immediate and longer term challenges facing the levels and moors area.
Bringing together representatives from Government, key agencies and local partners, the action plan is currently focused on five themes:
- River Management (including Dredging)
- Catchment Management
- Infrastructure Resilience
- Community and Business Resilience
- Economic Impact and Funding
Given its strategic role on both economic and funding matters, the Heart of the South West LEP has been asked to lead the Economic Impact and Funding workstream. The workstream will provide an underlying case for funding of immediate mitigation measures and wider assistance, as well as set out evidence for investment in longer term solutions for the levels and moors area.
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