Government funding of £80 million has been announced to provide a new sea wall at Dawlish that will improve protection both for the railway and the town behind it.
The announcement was made by the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, as he visited Dawlish to meet with Network Rail and local businesses and discuss government investment in modern, reliable train services across the South West.
In February 2014, the sea wall collapsed during heavy storms, closing the railway and cutting Cornwall and western Devon off from the rest of the railway network for eight weeks. Those repairs cost £40 million.
Since then, a further £15 million has been provided for Network Rail, working with coastal, tunnel, cliff and railway engineers at Arup, to design a new, higher sea wall
Earlier this month, plans were submitted to Teignbridge District Council for upgrades to the sea wall that would increase its height by 2.5 metres and include wave returns to reduce the impact of waves and the likelihood of the line being closed during adverse weather.
Commenting on those plans, Network Rail’s senior commercial scheme sponsor Julie Gregory said that the new wall would help avoid disruption to train services following extreme weather.
“The bit that’s most vulnerable is the bit we’re addressing first, to the west of Dawlish Station,” she said. “That’s called Marine Parade and it’s about a 360-metre section of sea wall that we’re raising using pre-cast concrete panels. It will make the wall about 2.5 metres higher.
“We want to do the job once, shore up the railway to protect it through the next century, taking into account sea level rise as a result of climate change.”
Today, Chris Grayling confirmed funding for the scheme, stating: “We cannot allow the disruption and damage endured by Dawlish and the South West to happen again. This significant investment demonstrates our cast-iron commitment to delivering a resilient and safe railway, giving passengers, businesses and residents confidence in a reliable service.
“With up to £80 million of funding available to create a rigorous set of defences, this new sea wall will help protect this vital route, building on our ambitious plans to grow this region’s economy and prosperity through stronger transport connections.”
The Dawlish sea wall is not the only problem area on that line. Using detailed geological surveys, Network Rail is developing solutions for the cliffs along the coast immediately northeast of Teignmouth, in the area of Holcombe and Parson’s tunnel, using the £15 million previously announced.