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All aboard at Dawlish

Following eight weeks of painstaking repairs to the weather-battered railway at Dawlish, the line has officially been reopened ahead of the Easter holidays.

A full service is now being run on the line but, because of continued flooding in the Somerset levels and final work to signalling at Dawlish continuing, there will be minor timetable changes to some trains.

Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “Our army of engineers has done an amazing job of putting back together a railway that was ravaged by the elements. They have overcome every obstacle thrown at them, winning many battles along the way to restore this critical piece of the network, ahead of schedule, and in time for the Easter holidays.

During the repair work, Network Rail’s 300-strong army of engineers, known locally as the ‘orange army’, has battled a number of obstacles thrown at them by Mother Nature.

This has included building a temporary sea wall from 18 welded shipping containers to protect homes and engineers as they worked to repair a 100m breach at Riviera Terrace, Dawlish.

They rebuilt and fortified the breach with more than 6,000 tonnes of concrete and 150 tonnes of steel. Engineers also had to remove 25,000 tonnes of collapsed cliff at Woodlands Avenue, Teignmouth, following a landslip on 4 March, using a high pressure water cannon, fire hoses, helicopter-borne water bombs, specialist roped access teams and ‘spider’ excavators. The ‘orange army’ also installed over 13 miles of new cables, designed and installed a new temporary signalling system and replaced over 700m of track and ballast.

And, following on from all this hard work, even the PM has given Network Rail’s workers a pat on the back.

David Cameron said it is a “great day for the hard-working people of Dawlish, and for businesses and commuters across the South West” whose lives have been turned upside down by the devastating loss of their train line.

However, he did take a little of the limelight for himself: “Back in February when I visited the town to see the damage for myself, I promised to do everything I could to get this vital artery back up and running as quickly as possible. I am delighted to say that promise has been delivered today. A promise which says that the South West is well and truly open for business.”

Still you can’t have everything; a politician is a politician after all.

Mark Hopwood, managing director for First Great Western, stated that the reopening of the railway line is good news for the South West and for FGW’s passengers.

He was a little more humble, saying: “The railway plays a vital role in the prosperity of the region, and we are grateful to the hard work Network Rail and their teams have put in to get this line up and running as quickly as possible.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Rupert Le Bere   04/04/2014 at 13:53

Network Rail deserve a serious pat on the back for their ingenuity in design and speed of implementating this job. Fair play! I think it's a credit to them and also to that chappy Cameron for keeping his promise and all that he did to ensure the job got done, although I'd love to know what it was that he actually did? He looks good in a hard hat though - maybe he should keep it and lend it to his mate Clegg for his next meeting with Mr Farage. On a serious note, the government and Network Rail shouldn't allow the success of this to divert attention away from the need for an alternative route around Dawlish.

Notts Railman   18/05/2014 at 19:14

This excellent and speedy reconstruction could only be achieved by doing things which would not normally be permitted: * dumping a row of containers along the top of the beach * washing away part of the cliff and allowing it to flow as slurry into the sea (pollution? contamination? destruction of habitats of the cliff-top flora and fauna?) And there can't have been time for a full environmental impact assessment!

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