The failure of the sea wall by the Dover to Folkestone railway line on Christmas Eve will cause months of disruption for rail users. I am doing all I can to ensure the repairs are carried out as quickly as possible.
Ensuring the stability of the sea wall is essential. So it's hard to understand how this could have happened. There should be regular inspection and maintenance on an exposed section like this. Nearby residents have told me that the level of shingle has been falling all year and the footings have been exposed for some time. So I am pressing Network Rail on the inspection and maintenance record - especially after what happened at Dawlish.
The bigger question is how long the repairs will take. This is not a small sea wall failure. It looks like some 200m of sea wall has failed and will need repair. This is a very big project. So already I am making the case to Network Rail and the Rail Minister that the repairs need to be carried up as quickly as possible.
The sea wall failure does not just affect Dover. It also has a serious impact on Deal and the Dover villages. Deal has benefitted from the fast train we fought so hard to get. It is a town with many commuters and fast train visitors who have boosted the local economy and helped Deal to enjoy more success. The sea wall failure will mean that services from Deal will be slower.
I am very conscious how difficult this will make life for rail users. I am doing all I can to hurry the repairs. Yet I am also discussing with Southeastern Trains and Network Rail whether fast services can go from Deal using the Manston Loop. This would reduce lost time but will be a real timetable challenge to make work.
A number of people have been in contact with their ideas on what can be done. Do please email me with your ideas too. I would particularly like to hear from season ticket holders to explore what particular measures can be done to help them from train rerouting to ride sharing.
I know how important it is to ensure these problems are worked on swiftly as most rail users will go back to work next week and I want to ensure a clear plan is in place by then. Not withstanding that we are trying to put a plan together over the Christmas period when many people in the rail industry are also away.
The failure of the sea wall on the Dover to Folkestone stretch of railway is a real worry. Yet I am doing all I can to get to fixed as soon as possible. I am doing all I can to see rail services rerouted and working hard to minimise the impact on rail travellers. The next few months will be very testing. Yet with good planning ahead I hope that it will be as quick as possible and that travellers will suffer the least possible disruption.
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