Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 13 February 2014


Since the storm washed away the rail track and seawall at Dawlish, life has not quite been the same. Endless meetings to try and get the right response and the right level of focus on both the immediate problem and longer term solutions.

It is obviously unacceptable that the Far South West should be cut off by rail from the rest of the country. I am pleased that the government is taking this very seriously and is committed to sorting it out. Network Rail has responded very quickly to get some heavy muscle in place in Dawlish and have a clear timetable to complete that complex operation. I always felt six weeks is optimistic, but time will tell.

The Transport Secretary and the Prime Minister have sanctioned a rigorous review thereafter to explore what can be done in the medium and long term to underpin rail resilience in and to our region. This will include the possibility of alternative routes.

That might be where the fun begins. I have spoken to most of my MP colleagues about this matter and there are, shall we say, a variety of views, flowing largely from the fact that we are elected to do the best for our constituency first and foremost. So: some favour sticking with the existing route but protecting the sea wall more forcibly, some favour resurrecting the old Tavistock line, others wish us to explore the prospect of tunnelling under Halden Hill to make a direct and fast link between Newton Abbot and Exeter. Many constituents have also e-mailed me with their suggestions for which I am grateful. All of them will be fed into the review when it begins.

I am increasingly drawn to the Halden Hill option. Apparently British Rail (as was) had just started look at this seriously, including some exploratory tunnelling, when the War broke out in 1939. Tunnelling is much easier these days with modern equipment and once in place such a rapid link would increase resilience dramatically. It would also mean that the railway towns of Totnes and Newton Abbot do not get by-passed (which is one major problem with the Okehampton suggestion)

We will see what the review brings. Whatever the solution, it will clearly cost a fortune. I have made it clear to ministers that my support for HS2 can no longer be guaranteed, unless we have a positive outcome to this, the most pressing issue facing our region.

posted by Gary @ 07:37