The UK’s Network Rail has confirmed that the South West’s main Dawlish rail link will be reopened by 4 April, two weeks ahead of previous estimates.

The West Country’s main rail line had been closed for several weeks now, after the winter storms cut off the rail link between Cornwall, Plymouth and the rest of the UK.

UK Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "Today’s confirmation that the line should now be back in operation before the Easter holidays will be a real boost for local communities and businesses."

Engineers of Network Rail have already completed rebuilding work along the damaged seafront, including repairing the main 100m breach of the seawall at Riviera Terrace with nearly 5,000t of concrete, 150t of steel and a new 200m track for deployment.

"Until the line reopens we continue to run train services between Exeter and London."

Around 15 steel containers have also been installed as temporary breakwater, and a scaffold bridge was built to reconnect services and signalling equipment in an effort to protect the site.

The engineers are currently installing 120m of large concrete wall sections, repairing 525m of parapet walls and renewing 13 miles of cables between Dawlish Warren and Teignmouth.

First Great Western managing director Mark Hopwood said: "Until the line reopens we continue to run train services between Exeter and London and between Newton Abbot and Penzance with bus services linking these to keep our passengers moving, and will do everything we can to minimise disruption to our customers’ journeys."

Image: An aerial view of repairs on the Dawlish railway line. Photo: courtesy of Network Rail.