Campaigners arguing that there needs to be an alternative route from Plymouth to Exeter have received a boost with the publication of a report that highlights the threat to the existing line.
Published in the Journal of Transport Geography, the research finds that since 1846 there has been a 20-centimetre rise in sea levels in the English Channel; of this, more than half has occurred since 1975.
The result of this rise has been an increase in the number of days when services have been disrupted. The current rate of disruption is about 10 days per annum; however, if sea levels continue to rise as forecast, then disruption could rise to 40 days per annum by 2040 and to 120 days per annum by the end of the century.
Not only will disruption increase, but the cost of protecting the line will also grow dramatically. Currently, the annual spend on the maintenance of the route is about £0.8 million but this could rise to almost £8 million per annum by 2040, according to the report.
With train operators and passengers being compensated for service disruption, the annual payment could increase fourfold over the next quarter of a century.
The argument for reinstating an alternative route between Cornwall, Plymouth and Exeter has been gathering strength since early 2014 when the sea wall at Dawlish was breached and the lines to the south-west were cut-off for three months whilst repairs were made.