Honiton tunnel view, via Network Rail

Weather resilience works forces 5-day closure between Axminster and Pinhoe

Railway upgrade works are set to begin in Devon from Monday 19th to Friday 23rd September between Axminster and Pinhoe. This project will see a five-day closure to the line, which will see workers conduct £5m worth maintenance works that include landslip prevention work at Honiton Tunnel, one of the most at-risk sites in the south of England.

Mark Killick, Network Rail’s Wessex route director, said:

 “The West of England line is a key part of the railway on Southern region so it’s vital we continue to invest to give our customers the reliable service they deserve.

“While we have tiny electronic sensors in the ground at Honiton Tunnel to monitor any movement so we can keep our passengers safe, it’s incredibly important that we conduct these works to stabilise the earth so we can prevent future landslips and lengthy disruption.

“By doing the work over five days means we can avoid a series of back-to-back weekend closures which would be even more disruptive, plus we can take advantage of the extended access to complete other upgrades and vital track maintenance.”

The installation of two retaining walls, 32 metres and 16 metres in length, will be accompanied by sheet piles that consist of metal posts with concrete planks for additional support to protect the line from landslip enforced closures. Weather resiliency works will also include improving the existing drainage systems and installation of a new one. The strengthening of the cutting accompanied with the improved drainage will make the line stronger in the face of extreme weather and heavy rainfall.

Vital track maintenance will also be a major focus of the project, with engineers utilising this closure period to give customers the infrastructural upkeep required to ensure a more reliable train service.

East Devon District Council will also use the railway closure to complete a huge project to protect 65 homes in Feniton from flooding.

Peter Williams, South Western Railway’s commercial director, said:

 “The upgrades that Network Rail is carrying out will significantly boost the reliability and resilience of a vital part of our network.

“Customers intending to travel from Monday until Friday should check before they travel and make use of the alternative transport options which have been provided.

“We recognise the decision to close the line for an entire working week will have a significant impact on those who use the line, but this will avoid a more protracted series of closures instead.

“We would like to thank those affected customers for their patience and understanding as this important modernisation work is carried out.”

This infrastructural maintenance project and line closure comes as just a small step in a series of major upgrade works planned for the West of England. Network Rail are committed to improving the quality of rail journeys across the region, creating stronger reliability for years to come via millions of pounds of investments.

Similar earthworks are planned to be conducted along the route this coming December and another extended line closure in the new year.

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