Currently, upon entering Plymouth train station, you are welcomed with a poster campaign that celebrates Network Rail’s success in re-opening the railway line at Dawlish. The line at Dawlish was destroyed by storms on February 5, and was shut until the beginning of April. Engineers from Network Rail’s ‘Orange Army’ had to practically rebuild the sea wall upon which the line runs; it had all cost at least £15 million.
Originally hailing from Dawlish myself, I knew how much disruption this caused. During the storms, parts of the town centre were damaged and/or under water, and families had to be evacuated from their homes. The damage was extensive. Yet, Dawlish bounced back. It is a tight-knit, resolute town and soon enough, things were back to normal.
As such, I was grateful when Network Rail re-opened the line. Not only did it affect my journey, the rail-line is also a big part of Dawlish. I can also understand why Network Rail are celebrating. It was a herculean effort. It could have taken a lot longer, but the swift manner in which they restored normal business was a triumph.
However, there is a fine line between celebrating success, and being patronising.
For example, First Great Western’s poster says it is ‘Building a Greater West’. Of course, it is celebrating Network Rail’s success, but I also can’t help but take it a little personally. We do need better infrastructure, I admit. However, it is almost as if the poster is implying that we, the West, need to be made ‘greater’.
The West already is great! Go down to Cornwall. It is a beautiful part of the world, whether you’re in the Eden Project or on the beaches of Newquay. In Devon, you have Plymouth, where you can visit the Hoe, or HMNB Devonport, which is one of only three operating naval bases used by the Royal Navy. You have the English Riviera in Torquay, Brixham and Paignton. There is also the city of Exeter, which is full of history and is also home to one of the best universities in the land. If that doesn’t take your fancy, then why not take an adventure of Dartmoor for a breath of fresh air, and take in its amazing landscape? You also have the picturesque, seaside town of Dawlish, which is just fantastic. Indeed, I am biased. Although, if you go down to Dawlish in August, you’ve got the Dawlish Carnival Week, and also the Dawlish Airshow.
When David Cameron visited Dawlish on the re-opening of the line, he said that South-West England was “open once again” (BBC News).
I don’t believe that we were ever closed.
In sum, I love my hometown, and I love the West. I am thankful that the rail-line was restored so quickly. But, does the West need to be made greater? I’d say it already is great. There are those who won’t share my opinion; those who think the West is a backward place, and that it is just full of fields and pitchforks.
However, I love this place, for it is my home.