I was very pleased to be in Dawlish last month to kick off the next stage of our programme to make the railway line there resilient against storms and floods. The £80 million investment in the new sea wall south of the station should mean that the line does not get blocked by high tides as it is done in the past, and I look forward to that work being completed later this year. Further work at Dawlish will follow, and we have also completed work around Exeter to provide greater resilience in that area. It is a real priority for this Government to ensure that the rail network in the south-west does not get disconnected by storms and bad weather in the future.
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving me such a positive answer. The news of the £80 million funding for the new sea wall was very welcome for the whole region. As he knows, when the Dawlish line is cut off, the whole of Devon and Cornwall is cut off from the network. Can he confirm that, if the local council gives planning permission for the work, it will be started very quickly, to deliver this much-needed scheme?
I very much hope that the work will commence within a matter of weeks. We will then need to go on and deal with the cliffs, which are a significant issue and will require longer development and consent processes because of the extremely sensitive environment around them. It is my view that we need to sort out the cliffs as well as the sea wall.