The collapse of the railway at Dawlish during a severe storm in February 2014 hit the headlines as Cornwall was cut off from the rest of the UK by rail. Just eight weeks later, the railway was once again open and transport links to the far west were restored.
Less well publicised was the landslip at Teignmouth, just one mile west of the work still going on at Dawlish, that took place on 4 March 2014. 20,000 tonnes of cliff face slumped on to the railway at the foot of the cliff. High pressure hoses were used to wash the earth away into the sea as Network Rail needed to get the line clear so that the line could reopen once the Dawlish works were completed.
Since then, plans have been developed to find a long-term solution to the stability of the costal cliffs along just over a mile of railway (1.8km) between Parsons Tunnel, near Holcombe, and Teignmouth.
The latest design, released by Network Rail for public consultation, moves the railway away from the most potentially hazardous areas of the cliffs but keeps the existing railway alignment at both the Parsons Tunnel and at Teignmouth ends of this stretch of railway.
Not only does this retain the beach, a popular local amenity, but the facility will be further enhanced by work surrounding the railway. A realigned coastal footpath, one metre wider than the current South West Coast Path, and safer for walkers as it will have edge protection, will be built along with a new, accessible footbridge over the railway at Sprey Point. Holcombe beach will have a new fully accessible ramp as access.
Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s route director, said: “Our updated plans will ensure a resilient railway line for the whole south west while maintaining most of the beach and adding improved walking and leisure facilities.
“The railway is a vital artery to the South West, which communities, businesses and visitors to the region depend on for connecting with the rest of the UK. We welcome views on our updated proposals before we apply for consent to undertake the work.”