|Photograph by Martin Bodman|
It has long been known that this stretch of track is vulnerable to storms and that climate change will only make the situation worse.
As a result there has been interest in the idea of reopening the old London & South Western route from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock. Stretches of the line is still in use at either end.
In 2010 Andrew George, the Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives in Cornwall, said:
"If the assessment is the problems on the line [through Dawlish] are overwhelming then it would be sensible to plan for the future," he said.
"When you contrast the amount of money – the billions – spent on major improvements to services in the north to south, it would be quite wrong to leave Plymouth and Cornwall cut off if that were to happen in the next century."The same newspaper report quotes a Network Rail spokesman as saying that any thoughts of a re-routing of trains around Dawlish were "wishful thinking". Perhaps the idea does not seem so foolish today.
Still, the spokesman was on the ball in one respect:
Funding to improve the line through the Somerset Levels, which is also prone to flooding, was a more attractive option, he said.