Network Rail has submitted plans, to Teignbridge District Council, for the extension of the rockfall shelter which shields a key stretch of railway in Devon.
This section of the railway line, between Dawlish and Holcombe, requires a further 209m long extension of the shelter. The line helps connect communities across the south-west with the rest of the UK, which is home to several cliffs close to the railway line.
Parsons Tunnel has previously lengthened a hundred years ago and Network Rail has proposed to extend that further by providing a rockfall shelter built with modern materials, but with open sides rather than the previous brick-built encloses tunnel extension.
If approved, the proposals, which are subject to the funding green-light from the government, will see construction starting in August with the work expected to take around a year to complete.
Preparatory work is due to begin at the top of the cliffs overlooking this stretch of railway on 22 March whereby Network Rail engineers will begin cutting back some of the vegetation and installing safety netting to secure the shrubbery on the cliffs and reduce any falling debris. This work will be closely monitored to ensure the least disruption for wildlife habituates and biodiversity.
The rockfall shelter forms part of the third phase of works as part of Network Rail’s South West Rail Resilience Programme following the two sections of the new sea wall in Dawlish.
Recent students, including drone flights over the cliffs, show that there are active falls from the rear cliff. An accumulation of material on the slope could trigger larger debris slides and this stretch of railway is not currently protected against rock falls from this active area of cliffs above.
Ewen Morrison, Senior Programme Manager for Network Rail’s South West Rail Resilience Programme, said: “The coastal location of the railway in South Devon is truly stunning but it also presents its biggest challenge with the sea on one side and cliffs on the other.
“The existing rockfall shelter has proven its effectiveness for a century and so this modern extended structure will protect the railway for generations to come alongside a section of cliff that is becoming increasingly hazardous from rock falls.”
Images: Network Rail