Liberal Democrat MP Richard Foord has called for urgent work to be undertaken to improve the Exeter-Waterloo railway line in the wake of flash flooding, which saw services between Exeter and Yeovil junction cancelled for ten days. 

Speaking in Parliament this week, Tiverton & Honiton MP Richard Foord raised the issue with Rail Minister, Huw Merriman, and asked for the line to be dualled between Chard Junction and Axminster, and a passing loop at Whimple would allow trains to pass. 

In response to Mr Foord’s calls, the Minister committed to reviewing the proposed project and said he would take extra steps to reduce disruption for people living in East and Mid Devon.

Bad weather saw huge levels of rainfall, which triggered a landslide near Crewkerne. This caused train services to be cancelled for more than a week, as there is only a single track on this section of the route.   

This was not the first time this route has been blocked following heavy rain. In November 2022, the service between Exeter-Waterloo had to terminate at Axminster for several days due to a landslip near Honiton. 

Mr Foord said: “Everyone living in our corner of Devon knows just how well-used our rail services are. They offer a vital commuter link to Exeter and London, as well as being a gateway to the wider West Country for tourists and visitors. 

“However, we’ve seen multiple issues in recent years that have caused many trains to be cancelled or delayed. In particular, the fact that there is only a single track between Chard and Axminster throttles capacity, meaning that one minor issue can derail services for everyone. 

“Solutions could include dualling the line, or adding a passing loop, so that services can move back and forth more easily. We also need to see greater investment in flood defences along our railways, to avoid more damaging landslips that can block the line. 

“I am glad that the Minister agreed to look into these proposals, which would benefit our communities and everyone who regularly uses rail services. I will continue to push for the signal to go green, so that this much-needed work can begin.”