Sea wall project is key to preventing disaster for Dawlish and its railway

The construction of a new sea wall, attempting to prevent further damage on the South Devon coastline, is progressing well and having a positive effect on the local community of Dawlish and their railway.

Sea wall project is key to preventing disaster for Dawlish and its railway

Credit: Network Rail

Eight years after a 2014 storm severely damaged the railway on the South Devon coastline, Network Rail’s new sea wall project is having a tangible and positive impact on the town of Dawlish and its railway.

The first section of the sea wall began construction in May 2019 and was completed in July 2020. It runs for 360 metres along Marine Parade southwest of Dawlish station. Construction of the second section, stretching 415 metres from Coastguard breakwater east of Dawlish station to Colonnade breakwater, began in November 2020.

Work on this second section is progressing well, with the contractors, BAM Nuttall, having installed all 143 concrete wall panels and curved wave returns on top of the panels that form the stretch of wall between the station building and Coastguard breakwater.

The innovative design of the wall panels and curved wave returns, coupled with the increased height of the wall, is having a noticeably positive impact keeping the tracks flood-free and train services running on this iconic stretch of railway. The new sea wall is also benefitting from the latest in construction technology, with low carbon concrete being used as part of the concrete backfill, reducing the carbon impact of this project by two-thirds.

“It is brilliant to see the progress being made on the second section of sea wall in Dawlish and how it is really starting to take shape,” Julie Gregory, Senior Sponsor for Network Rail, said. “This is a really significant because once complete this new, bigger sea wall will play a central role in protecting this town and this railway route to the south-west from rising sea levels and extreme weather for generations to come and, we hope, prevent the events of 2014 ever happening again.”

While progress has been made, work is also underway to completely rebuild the seaward platform 1 (serving trains towards Teignmouth) and resurfacing the landward platform 2 (serving trains towards Exeter) with a team of engineers working around the clock to finish it, making it safer and easier for passengers to step onto and off trains.

“The location of the railway, sandwiched between the sea and the town, has made delivering the work incredibly challenging but enormously rewarding,” Yan Sayles, Project Manager for BAM Nuttall, said. “It has pushed us to the limits of our knowledge and required us to develop new techniques and materials that have never been used in other rail projects before, we hope that it will provide a lasting legacy which will benefit the town for many years to come.”

It is anticipated that the promenade along the second section and between the first and second sections of sea wall will be completed and open to the public this summer, meaning residents and visitors alike will be able to walk between Dawlish and Dawlish Warren along the entire length of new sea wall.

The £80 million Department for Transport funded project will be completed in 2023 and will protect the railway and town from rising sea levels and extreme weather for future generations.

“As extreme weather events become more common, we must do all we can to protect our transport network,” Wendy Morton, Rail Minister, said. “The progress being made on Dawlish’s wall is incredible. We are investing £80 million to rebuild this station, as well as making it more accessible for all passengers.”

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