Network Rail submits plans for improved sea wall at Dawlish as part of the South West Rail Resilience Programme

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Network Rail has made a planning submission to Teignbridge District Council to improve the long-term resilience of the railway linking Devon and Cornwall to the rest of the UK.

Plans, developed in partnership with world leading engineering contractors Arup, for a new, higher sea wall at Dawlish will be submitted to the council, targeted at providing greater resilience for generations to come.

The design will prevent stormy conditions from damaging the railway at Dawlish in Devon. Owing to high waves and strong winds, the tracks and station are regularly being damaged by flooding, as seen in 2014 when the line washed away.

Since then Network Rail has undertaken a series of detailed studies which established that maintaining the current railway route was the most feasible and cost effective solution. They subsequently identified the areas that needed most urgent attention – including the Dawlish sea wall.

Based on these studies, the government invested £15m to appoint world-leading coastal, tunnel, cliff and railway engineers to undertake detailed marine and geological studies to develop long term resilience plans further.

These plans were shared with the local community in October when Network Rail outlined proposals for the three priority areas including a new, higher sea wall at Dawlish.

Work also started in November to repair the breakwaters which provide a vital defence for the coast against the elements.

The new sea wall will provide far more protection from waves and extreme weather and is future-proofed to protect 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 – a feature that the area is famous for.

Network Rail is now submitting the plans for ‘prior approval’ under Network Rail’s permitted development rights. Under this Teignbridge District Council will now be able to formally consult the local community on the proposed designs.

These plans have been submitted to Teignbridge District Council with the knowledge of the Secretary of State for Transport and the outcome of the council’s decision will help inform government’s decision on next steps for the South West Rail Resilience Programme.

Mark Langman, Network Rail’s Western route managing director, said: “The Department for Transport and Network Rail have been working tirelessly to determine what needs to be done in order to protect this vital transport artery for Devon and Cornwall.

“From blank page studies that looked at all options we’ve identified this as the most feasible rail route for Devon and Cornwall and there are areas that specifically need our attention.

“Improving the resilience of the sea wall at Dawlish is one of the most immediate and easiest areas we can begin work on and we’ve now submitted detailed plans to Teignbridge District Council.

“These plans are now subject to the views of the council, their residents and a final decision from government.

“In parallel we continue to work on possible solutions at Holcombe and Parsons Tunnel and will be sharing these with the community later this year.

“Maintaining this vital rail link for Devon and Cornwall remains a high priority for us, as I know it is for government.”