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Railway crippled at Dawlish as town prepares for further storms

The damaged railway at Dawlish could take up to six weeks to repair, Network Rail has announced, with the likely repair bill in the millions. Engineers will need more time, once the weather is calmer, to fully assess the scale of the work.

But another storm is forecast to hit the south west tomorrow, which could further hinder repairs.

Stormy seas and high tides have destroyed around 80m of sea wall, as well as the nearby road and buildings, and have severely damaged Dawlish station. Network Rail staff are working to shore up the damaged section with a concrete spraying machine.

Network Rail’s route managing director for the Western route, Patrick Hallgate, said: “We absolutely understand the importance of the railway to the south west and will do everything we can to rebuild the railway at Dawlish as quickly and safely as we can.

“After a quieter night’s weather, we have been able to begin delivering machinery to our site compound with a view to protecting the exposed section of railway and the land behind it. We need to make sure we limit any further damage this weekend so that the significant repairs that are needed do not become greater still.

“We will continue working with the government, Environment Agency, local authorities and other partners to explore ways of improving the railway’s resilience to extreme weather. The disruption to rail services in the south west highlights the importance of that work and the need for all forms of transport to ensure that they are fit for the future.”

dawlish middle

Transport infrastructure expert Dr John Disney, a senior lecturer at Nottingham Business School, part of Nottingham Trent University, said it was “entirely predictable” that sea damage would take place at Dawlish.

“Long-term serious consideration must now be given to reopening an alternative inland railway line through Devon closed during the Beeching era. While local campaigners have been fighting for this restoration for some time, there has been little Westminster support but the tide may now be turning.”

On the Cambrian Coast Line the section between Dovey Junction and Barmouth could be reopened as soon as 10 February if the weekend passes without any major incidents, Network Rail said. Staff are currently removing debris from the track, replacing sea walls and defences, and relaying new track and ballast.

The full section repairs from Barmouth to Pwllheli are on schedule to be complete in mid-May. Mark Langman, route managing director for Network Rail Wales, said the development of the Coastal Asset Management Plan in Wales was helping to mitigate the damage from extreme weather.

“Our focus continues on the significant damage north of Barmouth, with an aim to get it open ahead of the Whitsun holiday period.

“In Wales, we have a programme to modernise the railway right across the country. The importance of this strategy has come into sharp focus in recent months following a number of powerful storms.”

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


Jak Jaye   07/02/2014 at 14:58

Wot no comments,shame on you lot,well can i be the first (of many?) to say never mind wasting billions on HS2,the railway line that goes somewhere to nowhere,spend some of it on flood defences and re-opening an alternative line to the West Country,there's already a line from Exeter to Newton Abbot (the Heathfield Branch) that is usable,never mind the LSWR \Main Line should never have been closed,Beeching and that other Industrial vandal Harold Wilson should be turning in their graves with shame.

Dr.Peter Long   07/02/2014 at 16:11

dr.disney is correct:bere alston-tavistock is to be opened by a commercial developer,so it is only a matter of tavistock-meldon quarry,with refurbishment of the viaduct there plus the demolishing of a very few would also provide Dartmoor with a green access mode.this is a classic example of beeching's ignorance of the necessity of diversion routes---the great central and somerset and dorset also immediately come to mind.

Stewart Rotherham( Civil Engineer)   07/02/2014 at 17:16

Corwall's EU Objective 1 status should have been used to help improve both the Exeter to Plymouth railway and A38 road, but to do this the 2 County Councils (Devon & Cornwall) and Plymouth City would have to work together and HMG would have to accept match funding with the EU, Too many issues there, I suspect!

Pedr Jarvis   07/02/2014 at 23:31

(1) the name of the place in Wales is Barmouth, not Barnmouth. It is a corruption of the Welsh Bermaw. They have their own problems with their PWay in those parts. (2) the Great Western had a plan to build a new line from Exeter to Newton Abbot before the war, but was put off by (a) the expense and (b) their poverty. Reopening the old Southern line may prove the cheaper option in the long run,DXLJV but it is a long way round.

Rupert Le Bere   08/02/2014 at 17:42

The trouble is that we are likely to let emotion take over from common sense. In reality, no-one is going to find the funding for the old SR route to be re-opened, especially as there will still be a need to retain the WR route around the coast in some form, Even if the railway at Dawlish was abandoned, the sea wall will have to be maintained unless Dawlish is to be left to nature. Flood mitgation is the only answer and whatever answer the Gov comes up with (off-shore reef etc??), it should incorporate the existing railway in a manner that secures its future for 24/7/365 operation, something that has been called for long before the current situation occurred.

RTM   10/02/2014 at 10:26

Thanks for the spot on Barmouth Pedr, that's been updated now.

Mikeb   10/02/2014 at 17:42

The ideal solution is to build a brand new line, inland from Dawlish and partly in tunnels, which would allow trains to continue running between Exeter and Plymouth, even during the worst winter storms. However, I can foresee the Government agreeing funding for a mere "patch-up" only of the present coastal route until, that is, the whole line is eventually washed into the sea.

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