Rock armour

£4.4m resilience works begin to prevent further flood damages along the Cambrian Line

A resilience works project from Network Rail has begun on mid Wales railway, following winter storm damages from February 2022 that caused half a mile of severe damages along the railway. These works come as the most recent edition of schemes dedicated to combating the effects of climate change to improve resilience across the whole Wales and Borders route.

The investment of £4.4m for the infrastructure project will see the installation of 10,000 tonnes of rock armour alongside a stretch of the Cambrian Line to enhance weather resilience and create more reliable journeys for passengers.

The Cambrian line between Welshpool and Newtown was closed for several weeks following Storm Franklin earlier this year, seeing restoration works from Network Rail and Amcogiffen. Engineers worked tirelessly to remove 3000 tonnes of debris, lay 4000 tonnes of new ballast and replace 800 metres of double track. The successful 24/7 shifts allowed the rail line to reopen in April 2022.

The previous Cambrian line closure led to disruptions for many people in their daily commutes in the surrounding areas. To minimise future disruption and delays, Network Rail has begun installing 9,500 tonnes of rock armour along the bank of the railway. This concept has proven to be successful along other rail maintenance projects that aim to combat flooding damages, shown through a flood-prone stretch of railway in the Conwy Valley and another near Abergavenny.

Rock armour acts to prevent stones under the tracks from washing away during extreme weather instances, which allows railways to reopen in just a matter of days, as opposed to weeks. To achieve the implementation of this construction design, a brand-new, temporary access road has been established to transport the locally sourced boulders from Cefn Mawr quarry, in Flintshire, to the work site.

Network Rail’s collaboration with Natural Resources Wales has taken steps to ensure the protection of local wildlife for the duration of projects of this size. Hedgerows are being planted in the gaps along the railway to prevent flooding and provide a perfect habitat for nesting birds and small mammals. Alongside the railway are century-old Redwood trees that require enhanced protection seen through special matting being laid down to ensure the safety and stability of their roots.

Jan Chaudhry van der Velde, Transport for Wales Managing Director, said:

 "We welcome this resilience investment by Network Rail which will help protect the railway from storms and flooding so we can keep services running in mid Wales.  

“The Cambrian Line has a bright future as it is also benefitting from the introduction of new Class 197 trains as part of our £800m investment in new rolling stock throughout the Wales and Borders network.”

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