The major plans that will see a section of the Dawlish rail line moved out to sea will be revealed next week.
Network Rail will unveil their proposals for the protection of the 1.8km stretch of railway between Parsons Tunnel, near Holcombe, and Teignmouth.
The scheme aims to ensure that the rail line is better protected from cliff falls, land slips and damage caused by the sea during extreme weather.
It will include moving the railway away from the sections of cliff that pose the greatest hazard and out towards the sea.
(Image: Daniel Clark)
To protect the realigned railway, a rock revetment or enhanced sea wall will be built to absorb the energy of the waves and allow for the railway to be relocated away from the cliffs.
Rockfell Shelters could also be built over the top of the railway line while buttresses – sloping rock structures to stabilise the cliffs and protect the railway – will be built.
The proposals also include enhanced leisure access, cycling and walking routes and new amenity areas so that users of Holcombe beach continue to enjoy the space and views of the Devon coastline.
Mark Langman, route managing director for Network Rail’s Western route, said: “The railway is a vital artery to the South West, which communities, businesses and visitors to the region depend on for connecting with the rest of the UK.
“Since we published early concepts in 2016 we have been working hard to refine our proposals as a direct result of the public feedback we received.
“The latest plans minimise the impact on the beach, allow for new and improved amenities such as cycling and foot paths and will protect the railway for generations to come. We would like to hear views on our updated proposals to allow us to refine them further before we apply for consent to undertake the work.”
The initial plans revealed back in 2016 would have seen most of Holcombe beach lost when the tracks were moved out to sea on a causeway. But David Lovell, Network Rail Programme Manager for the Western and Wales, told Teignbridge’s Locality Committee in February but the scheme has been redesigned, which means a large part of the beach will now be maintained.
At the meeting, he added that design work was nearing completion and that he expected it would have been completed in time for the plans to be revealed in the summer.
At the time, he said that the plans included rockfall shelters over the top of the railway line, a rock revetment at Parsons Tunnel, improved sea wall defences, buttresses to reinforce and support the cliffs and moving the railway 90m away from the cliffs but retaining a large part of the Smugglers’ Beach for public use.
The full proposals will be revealed on Monday, which also will see the start of a five week consultation on them which will run from June 10 to July 15. Residents and interested parties will be invited to provide feedback on the proposals to help finalise the designs.
(Image: Daniel Clark)
From June 10, the detailed proposals will be published online at www.networkrail.co.uk/SouthWestRRP and venues across the region such as council offices and libraries.
There will also be 10 consultation events in and around the local area to enable people to find out more, ask questions and express their views.
Events will take place in Dawlish, Holcombe, Teignmouth, Exeter, Newton Abbot and Torquay.
Following the consultation, all responses will be analysed, and Network Rail will incorporate the feedback into updated plans which will be publicised through a second round of consultation this autumn.
It comes as Network Rail has started work on a new bigger sea wall at Dawlish which will provide greater protection to the railway and town from rising sea levels and extreme weather for generations to come.
The plans 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 new sea wall will be complete in early 2020 with work stopping during the peak summer season to minimise disruption on the local community and tourism in the area and has been welcomed by local MPs.
Anne Marie Morris MP, for Newton Abbot, said: I am glad to see that the first steps to deliver the South West Rail Resilience Programme – which is so crucial for our local economy – are getting underway at Dawlish.
“Network Rail have listened to residents during the consultation and have amended their design to address concerns as much as they can without compromising the effectiveness of the sea defence.”
Kevin Foster MP, for Torbay, added: “The plans Network Rail have put together won’t just benefit Dawlish, but Torbay and the whole South West.
“It is a great day to see the funding in place and work now starting to deliver the resilient, reliable railway passengers and businesses across our region deserve.”