PEOPLE travelling by rail to and from stations in Cornwall and South Devon on weekends in February will experience some journey alterations as work to improve the railway between Exeter and Plymouth begins.

There will be amended train services and replacement buses in operation to keep people moving at these times.

During every weekend in February, Network Rail will be undertaking trackwork as well as platform refurbishments at Dawlish station, affecting services on the mainline between Exeter St Davids and Plymouth.

The work to Dawlish comes eight years after the 2014 storm which severely damaged the railway. Since the start of construction on the first section of a new, bigger sea wall in May 2019, the Dawlish coastline has undergone a mighty transformation.

The overall £80m Department for Transport-funded project, which will also see an accessible station footbridge with lifts (to be completed in 2023) at Dawlish, will protect the railway and town from rising sea levels and extreme weather for future generations - and so will ensure journeys to and from South Devon and Cornwall are less likely to suffer disruption due to weather or storm erosion in future.

As part of these ongoing works, buses will replace trains between Exeter St Davids and Plymouth on all weekends, with non-stop buses also running between Tiverton Parkway and Plymouth to speed up journeys for passengers travelling to and from that city and Cornish stations.

Other engineering works in Devon will also affect services in the area during this time, including Exeter St Davids to Exeter Central this Sunday (February 6), Newton Abbot to Paignton on the weekend of February 12-13, and Crediton to Barnstaple/Okehampton from Saturday February 19 to Sunday, February 27.

Train operator Great Western Railway (GWR) is asking those intending to travel during this period to plan ahead and check journey times before travelling.

Mark Chorley, GWR Regional Station Manager, West, said: “This work is important to ensure we can continue to maintain and improve reliability and we thank customers for their patience in advance.

“We have been working hard to provide as many replacement buses as we can to ensure people can continue to travel confidently and safely. However, we strongly recommend our customers check their times carefully before travelling to ensure a smooth journey with us.”

Services will continue to operate where the railway lines remain open, but train times will be amended to allow for easy connections onto replacement buses.

Long-distance services from London Paddington to the South West will operate as far as Exeter St Davids. Customers for stations in Plymouth or Cornwall should remember to change at Tiverton Parkway for direct replacement buses to Plymouth.

Phil Morton, Network Rail Project Manager, said: “We would like to thank passengers and local residents in advance for their patience and understanding while we make these important upgrades.

“In particular, the improvements we are making to the platforms at Dawlish station will make it safer and easier for passengers to step onto and off trains.”

GWR says it has been providing rail services throughout the pandemic and has worked to ensure that these are as safe as possible. This includes increased cleaning regimes and the use of a virucidal spray; extra staff at key stations to offer help and guidance; and processes in place to help customers maintain a safe distance where possible, such as restricting the number of reservations available. 

CrossCountry Trains services between Cornish stations and Plymouth, and Bristol, the Midlands, Northern England and Scotland are also likely to be affected by the rail works - for updates on those services see