World leading engineers on site as Network Rail works to safeguard vital route to the South West.(Network Rail)

World leading engineers on site as Network Rail works to safeguard vital route to the South West

Dawlish – the original breach.(Network Rail Image)

World leading engineers in coastal, tunnel, cliff and railway engineering have begun detailed studies along the route between Teignmouth and Dawlish in Devon, as Network Rail works to safeguard the railway in Devon and Cornwall for future generations.

Since 2014, when the railway line between Exeter and Newton Abbot was closed for eight weeks owing to severe weather, Network Rail has been putting together plans to safeguard the railway to the South West, through Dawlish and Teignmouth, for the long term.

In 2016 Network Rail completed the Exeter to Newton Abbot Geo-Environment Resilience study which identified that unless a series of short, medium and long term measures are put in place extreme weather and coastal erosion are likely to mean that the events that closed the line in 2014 will occur more frequently.  The report identified three priority areas that require improved resilience to enable the railway to be maintained in the face of extreme weather;

  • The railway between Parsons Tunnel and Teignmouth where there was a landslip on the cliffs in 2014.
  • The sea wall which collapsed at Dawlish in 2014.
  • The cliffs between Kennaway and Parsons Tunnels.

With an extra £30m of funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) provided immediately following the storms, Network Rail began repair works on the line. In 2016 DfT provided a further £15m to fund development and preparation work to improve long-term resilience between Dawlish and Teignmouth. Network Rail is now beginning the next phase of work with a detailed geological and marine study now underway to help them understand what is happening to the cliffs and coastline. This will enable them to consider what measures could be put in place in these areas to maintain the railway.

This work will see activity in and around Dawlish and Teignmouth for the next six to eight weeks as site surveys are undertaken across the area including surveying of the sea bed. Following these surveys Network Rail will work with the expert team over the course of 2018 and early 2019 to put together outline options for discussion with the local community, council and Department for Transport before any decisions are taken by government.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:

 “We are investing in the biggest modernisation of our rail network since Victorian times, providing faster, more reliable and more frequent services for passengers. 

“This includes making the lines from Dawlish to Teignmouth more resilient to the elements to avoid a repeat of the damage and disruption caused by the storms of 2014.

“On top of the £31 million put into tackling the damage and disruption caused by the weather in 2014, we have invested a further £15 million to enable world-class engineers to design a long-lasting solution for the line. We are determined to improve the service for passengers and safeguard the economy by protecting the movement of goods and services, irrespective of the weather.”

Mike Gallop, director of route safety and asset management for Network Rail said:

“The section of the railway is vital for many residents and communities in Devon and Cornwall; safeguarding it for future generations remains one of our top priorities.

“The next six to eight weeks will see some of the world’s best engineers out on site as we gather as much information on the three key sites we have identified to help us start to work up possible solutions for us to present to the local community, local councils and government.

We are acutely mindful of the need to take into account the local community, the long term needs of the environment as well as the need to provide a sustainable railway for Devon and Cornwall”

Councillor Geoff Brown, Peninsula Rail Task Force Chair said: 

“The Government has continually stated that improving the resilience of the line at Dawlish is their number one priority and these studies represent the starting point to ensure that it happens.

“The results of the studies will help create solutions to improve the line and ensure that we do not see a repeat of the damage caused in 2014. In the long term this will have huge economic benefits to communities, businesses and visitors in Devon and Cornwall.”


Arcadis and Arup have been appointed by Network Rail to undertake detailed analysis and to present options designed to deliver greater long-term resilience along this stretch of Network Rail’s Western Route.

Saeed Mojabi, Arup project director, said:

 ”Arup is pleased to be involved in this essential project to strengthen the resilience of this well-known and much-loved stretch of Britain’s rail network. We will draw on our rail engineering and coastal processes expertise to present innovative and cost-effective solutions capable of providing long-term protection as well as public realm enhancements.”

Claire Milner, Associate Project Manager at Arcadis, said:

 “Having been involved with the project for a number of years conducting the initial ground investigations, it’s fantastic to take things forward to the next stage. We’re going to be using some of the latest innovative technology, including 4D modelling and drones to conduct survey work, so it really is a ‘once-in-a-career’ opportunity to work on such an iconic and challenging project.  Many of our own people use this stretch of the railway themselves, and so are delighted to work on a project that will ensure longevity for generations to come.”

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