Campaigners are demanding answers from the Government over its failure to shore up the region’s railways in the wake of the Dawlish storm disaster of 2014.
The Peninsula Rail Task Force say they are frustrated at the lack of response to Closing The Gap, its 20-year blueprint setting out its priorities for the region’s railway.
In November 2016, members were forced to travel by road to submit the dossier to parliament because bad weather once again cut train services.
And 15 months on, the task force has yet to receive a response from government.
Cllr Geoff Brown, chairman of the PRTF, said: “The government gave us £35million to reinstate the line but what have they done since then? Absolutely nothing.”
Now it is demanding answers from the government about how its national rail strategy works for the South West.
He was speaking at a PRTF stakeholders meeting held in Taunton on Friday to update members and formulate a response to the consultation for the future of the GWR and Cross Country franchises.
Richard Stevens, chairman of the stakeholders advisory group, said that resilient railway is vital to the economy.
He said: “If the South West is going to grow then the railway is a keystone of that.”
Great Western Railway has invested in new trains. The IEP class 802 passes through Dawlish (Image: Thomas Mills)
He said that the region welcomed small pockets of investment, a new fleet of GWR trains and upgraded customer lounges but the big investments, including coastal resilience at Dawlish and flood prevention at Cowley Bridge, outside of Exeter, remained outstanding.
He said: “The truth of the matter is four years on we are not really in a better position.
“We have forwarded a very coherent 20 year plan and as yet we have had no response.
“We have done everything that has been asked of us so we are getting ever more frustrated that we are still in this limbo land.”
The PRTF plans to create a scorecard to measure government progress on the region’s three priorities of resilience, speed and capacity. It heard that passengers are facing a 3.4% increase on fares, making a next-day train journey from Plymouth to London £304 compared to a plane from Newquay at £222.98 and car £84.
An Air Southwest De Havilland DHC-8 takes off from Newquay Airport
And an ongoing frustration for the group is the failure of Cross Country to run services through Dawlish because of salt water damage. Around 40 services were cancelled in 2016 due to bad weather.
Cllr Brown said: “The Department of Transport was down here last week talking about franchises.
“A red line for new franchisees is that your rail fleet has to be able to cope with heavy spray at Dawlish.
“If they can’t keep their fleet running then they don’t run them at all or we have to invest in an inland route.
“Now is the time to pick up the lobbying,” he said.
The task force is to take the stakeholders views to MPs at the all party parliamentary group on Tuesday.
Source: Devon live