Long term plans to safeguard the future of the Dawlish rail line could be revealed in the summer – and built by 2027 – but only if funding is found.
Design work on the best method to protect the section of track between Parsons Tunnel and Teignmouth is nearing completion, with a series of revetments, sea walls and rockfall shelters over the line planned by Network Rail.
David Lovell, Network Rail Programme Manager for the Western and Wales, told Teignbridge’s Locality Committee on Thursday that the design work would be complete the summer and they would then be in a position to formally submit their plans, subject to funding.
The plans include:
- Rockfell Shelters build over the top of the railway line
- A rock revetments at Parsons Tunnel
- Improved sea wall defences, including the previous announced works at Marine Parade and Dawlish station
- Moving the railway further away from the cliffs
- Retaining a large part of the Smugglers’ Beach for public use
- Buttresses to reinforce and support the cliffs
Mr Lovell explained to councillors the plans that Network Rail had for the section of track between Teignmouth and Parsons Tunnel where the issue they need to tackle are the cliffs.
He said: “We have done investigation work and we have a design for a rockfall shelter that will support the bottom of the cliff and prevent the cliff material and rocks falling onto the tracks. The design going through at the moment is for it to be around 200m long, but the seaward facing side will be open so train passengers can still see the iconic view of the railway.”
Mr Lovell said that investigation work had identified all the options, and that they were now ‘honing on’ on the final option that they would present.
He added: “Doing nothing is not an option, and doing nothing to the cliffs and moving the railway is not an option either as we would have to move the railway 90m out to sea, so we have to address the stability of the cliffs, and we have to design a solution that takes into account all types of failures for the cliffs.”
The original design in 2016 would have seen most of Holcombe beach lost when the tracks were moved out to sea on a causeway, but the scheme has been redesigned, which means a large part of the beach will now be maintained.
He said that at Smuggles’ beach, the plans included replacing the existing footbridge over the railway with an underpass that would go under the railway to join the coast path and would see a large portion of the beach retained, with a rock revetment also installed.
Near Teignmouth, a rockfall shelter would be installed to protect the line from cliff falls, while a hybrid solution of both sea walls and revetments would be built as coastal defences to improve the protection of the line.
Mr Lovell added: “If we reduce the amount the railway we have move seaward, it has big benefits in terms of cost, so we are looking at cliff stability options to bring the railway back inland.
“On the section between Parsons Tunnel and Teignmouth, we aim to finish the design work in June and then submit it to the Department for Transport, so by the summer, we will be in a position to have all this in more detail. We will then make the application under the transport act for the works, but we will need to confirm that the funding is available, for however many millions it will cost, first.”
Asked when it may be finished by Cllr John Clatworthy, he said that the current programme envisages it could be done by 2027.
Mr Lovell said that the design work should be done by the summer, and they have allowed 12 months for it to be accepted under the Transport Work Act and 12 months for any public inquiry.
“By the end of 2021, we should be ready to build this, and it will take around four to five years to build it.”
He also briefed the committee on the £80m plans that Network Rail has submitted to improve the sea wall along Marine Parade.
The scheme will raise the wall from its current height of 5m to 7.5m, widen the walkway to 4m from its current 3.1m width, and include a barrier between the pedestrians and the edge of the to stop people falling off the wall.
The design will prevent stormy conditions from damaging the railway at Dawlish, as back in 2014, the line was washed away in the storm, and the tracks and station are regularly being damaged by flooding.
Mr Lovell said: “The new sea wall will reduce 90 per cent of the waves overtopping the sea wall and going onto the railway, so it will be safer and improve the amenity of the area.”
Subject to planning permission being granted, Network Rail say that they want to start on site by the end of May, will work until the summer holidays, and then return to continue the work in September when the schools go back.
Then want to turn the attention to the Colonnade to Coastguard section which will include a full review of what can be done with Dawlish Water.
Teignbridge District Council are currently formally consult the local community on the proposed designs and whether they would negatively impact the amenity of the area. If not, then the council should approve the application.
However, more objections that support have been registered against the plans from members of the public, one of whom simply said ‘it is a stupid idea’.
Subjected to planning permission being granted, it should take around nine months for the new sea wall to be constructed, although how the scheme will be funded still needs to be confirmed.