South west open for business again, says PM

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Prime Minister David Cameron has declared the south west of England “open for business” again as he visited a town whose storm-wrecked rail line reopened on Friday.

Calling for three cheers for the 300-strong Network Rail (NR) team that has worked round the clock to restore the line at Dawlish in Devon, Mr Cameron praised the south west as “a wonderful part of the country”.

Prime Minister David Cameron looks at railway worker Ross McCulloch's t-shirt which shows pictures of the damaged railway line at Dawlish

Prime Minister David Cameron looks at railway worker Ross McCulloch's t-shirt which shows pictures of the damaged railway line at Dawlish

With the line open again after a two-month closure, the Prime Minister said: “The south west is open for business, it’s open for tourism and it’s open for trade.”

The NR team had to repair track, the sea wall and parts of Dawlish station after the severe storms in February.

Mr Cameron said: “I want to say an enormous thank you to the people who have carried out this vital work. it’s been a Herculean effort over 56 days and 56 nights. It’s been a huge task.”

He also praised the people of Dawlish for “their patience and incredible generosity.”

Shortly after Mr Cameron’s comments, Carolyn Custerson, chairman of the Visit Devon organisation, said: “We are delighted that the train line is now reopen through Dawlish. Devon is one of the UK’s top holiday destinations – welcoming over 36 million visitors a year and supporting over 74,000 jobs – and many tourism businesses have suffered as a result of the closure.

“Bookings leading up to Easter are estimated as being 23 per cent down and current reckoning is the crisis has cost the county around £31m. I would urge anyone looking to book a break to support Devon this year, especially in light of the fantastic weather predicted for us.”

The coast-hugging line at Dawlish bore the brunt of the severe weather this winter, with the sea wall breached and the line badly damaged on February 4.

This led to the line linking Exeter St Davids with Newton Abbot, Plymouth and Penzance to close for two months.