RAIL passengers in the South West will benefit from more reliable train journeys thanks to a new £82-million Government funded sea wall protecting the vital coastal rail route in Dawlish.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper attended Dawlish station to mark the completion of the wall, which will support this key transport artery for the South West.

The new, rebuilt sea wall will protect the safety of local passengers from extreme weather conditions along the coast. It has been completed in two phases, with the latter stage protecting the Grade 2 listed Dawlish train station.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “I am delighted to see the completion of two major projects today, delivering a Government commitment to improve a vital rail route for passengers in the South West.

“These projects demonstrate a Government that is delivering our promises, investing in vital infrastructure and improving transport connections to help grow the economy.”

The work in Dawlish forms part of the £165-million South West Resilience Programme and delivers on a Government pledge to create a more resilient railway following devastating storms in 2014, which damaged the tracks beyond use for eight weeks and disconnected passengers from the network.

The completion of the works marks a major milestone for the programme and will offer a promenade and new public areas for the local community. Ongoing work by Network Rail also continues to develop a new, accessible footbridge with lifts at Dawlish Station.

Further cliff protection work, to deliver two additional phases of the programme, continues at pace including a rockfall shelter at Holcombe, along the coast from Dawlish.

Michelle Handforth, regional managing director of Network Rail’s Wales and Western region, said: “I’m delighted that we could be joined by the Secretary of State for Transport to mark the official opening of the sea wall in Dawlish.

“Working with world-leading engineers and with funding from the Government, we’ve been able to protect the railway line and town of Dawlish for generations to come.

“I’d particularly like to thank the Dawlish community for their patience and support while the construction took place close to their homes and businesses over two-and-half years.”

“Marsh Barton Station is another major improvement to the rail network in Devon and we’re honoured that the Secretary of State can join us to mark this occasion. Thanks go to all of the partners involved for their efforts that have made this scheme possible and we’ve no doubt it will be very well used.”