At the start of this week, Network Rail submitted plans to Teignbridge District Council for improved sea wall defences at Dawlish.
This is part of the South West Rail Resilience Programme, designed as a long term solution to storm damage that has been an increasingly frequent problem at this location for the coastal railway that links Devon and Cornwall to the rest of the UK.
Back in 2014, high waves, strong winds, and flooding caused the line to be completely washed away here, cutting off the region from the rest of the country for eight weeks. Network Rail engineers managed to reopen the line through a controlled landslip and the addition of more than 6,000 tonnes of concrete.
Network Rail has since undertaken a series of detailed studies which concluded that maintaining the current coastal railway route through Dawlish was the most feasible and cost effective solution – despite some local calling for a new line diverted inland.
Work back in November has already repaired breakwaters as part of the defense scheme against the sea, and the proposed future plan is centred on the construction of a new, higher sea wall at Dawlish to protect the rail line. This should provide far more protection from waves and extreme weather, and is future-proofed to protect both the railway and the town, taking into account predicted rising sea levels. The local community will also benefit from a wider, safer promenade which retains the views of the coast.
These renderings of possible future views of Dawlish are shown on the National Rail web site:
The proposed plans are now subject to the views of the Teignbridge District Council council, who will now be able to formally consult the local community on the proposed designs. The outcome of the council’s findings will help inform the government’s decision on the next steps for the South West Rail Resilience Programme.