'Wild west' will be stuck with sub-standard rail link
WITH reference to the Herald article about building a new railway line avoiding Dawlish, that will be a lot easier said than done.
Such a major rail infrastructure scheme as this would likely now prove as much a political problem to overcome as a financial one.
Quite simply Exeter and its travel to work area is not unsurprisingly seen by Government as the centre of rail activity in the South West, being Devon's main interchange and commuter station. More people pass through Exeter St David's station than any other station west of Bristol. This is because during the now notorious 1963 'Beeching' rail cuts Exeter unlike Plymouth retained much of its rail infrastructure which is now proving invaluable in today's more enlightened times.
Exeter, unlike Plymouth, is served by hourly direct rail services to both London Paddington (FGW) via Westbury/Reading and London Waterloo (SWT) via Salisbury/Basingstoke as well hourly rail services to Bristol and beyond and importantly a growing 'Devon Metro' group of local rail services to North/South/East Devon.
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Exeter and its rail users have therefore historically had the political upper hand over Plymouth's rail users with Governments and that situation has not changed really under the present coalition Government.
Put bluntly Exeter's affluent local rail commuters from Dawlish/Teignmouth/Barnstaple/Exmouth etc. are seen as more important politically to the Government than a few business rail users from Plymouth and Cornwall for whom a single sub-standard main rail line west of Exeter is still seen as adequate.
Not surprisingly then we are still viewed in Plymouth by Government as the "wild west" when it comes to transport matters, despite the fact that today's rail route via Dawlish was not even viewed fit for purpose in 1937 let alone 2012.
The bottom line is that politically Devon County Council, historically based in Exeter, still has much more political clout than Plymouth with Government in railway matters and has a self vested interest in maintaining its power base in Exeter for the benefit of wider Devon and so maintain Exeter transport dominance over Plymouth. So I personally don't see anything changing the status quo. End of.