A new rockfall shelter has been completed on the iconic coastal railway between Exeter and Newton Abbot, marking a major milestone in Network Rail's programme of work to protect the line from extreme weather.
The 109-metre-long shelter is located at the northern end of Parsons Tunnel, near Holcombe. It is made up of 185 pre-cast concrete units, coloured red to match the local sandstone with the roof of the shelter covered with 4,100 tonnes of red sand and 5,132 cubic metres of foam concrete, which was used to backfill between the shelter and the cliff.
Above the structure, 7,000 square metres of stainless-steel netting, secured by 1,400 soil nails, has been installed to provide extra protection.
The £48 million structure was funded by the Department for Transport as part of Network Rail's South West Rail Resilience Programme, set up after the major storm of 2014 that cut off the railway to the peninsula for eight weeks.
The completion of the rockfall shelter is a major boost for passengers and businesses in the region, providing vital protection to the railway from the effects of climate change. The resilience programme is also supporting jobs and economic growth in the South West.
Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: "This project marks another milestone in our commitment to improving rail infrastructure in the South West, providing vital protection from extreme weather and boosting service reliability across the network.
"Its completion is a prime example of this Government delivering its promises to grow the economy and improve rail connections across the UK."
MP for Newton Abbot Anne Marie Morris said: "I'm delighted we can celebrate another milestone on the journey to reinstating the resilience of our iconic railway line. The rockfall shelter is complete and the Dawlish to Holcombe resilience work well under way, that leaves just the final phase which is the last and most challenging part of the resilience programme - addressing the challenges of the cliffs at Teignmouth. Thank you to Network Rail, our very patient community and the many other unsung supporters of this vital project."
Network Rail senior programme manager Ewen Morrison said: "We are delighted that the rockfall shelter is now complete, making journeys more reliable for our passengers on this vital transport link to the South West.
"Our teams worked through all weathers to get the job done and encountered very difficult ground conditions. Once the foundations were in place, it was impressive to watch the structure emerge. The gantry crane proved invaluable to meet the unique challenge of working in such a confined space between the cliffs and the sea.”
The completion of the shelter has brought total investment in the Programme to £165m, which includes a new sea wall at Dawlish.
It also includes the work that is currently under way installing 19,700 square metres of netting secured by 6,000 soil nails on the cliffs between Dawlish and Holcombe.
Network Rail also confirmed that it will shortly be submitting its business case for the final part of the programme, between Parson’s Tunnel and Teignmouth to the Department for Transport.
Photo Credit: Network Rail