Posted 19th February 2014 | 8 Comments

Dawlish now set to be closed 'until mid-April'

NETWORK RAIL has warned that another storm last weekend has delayed the repairs on the Great Western Main Line at Dawlish, where destruction caused by storm tides has cut off Plymouth and Cornwall from the rest of the rail network.

It had been hoped to restore the line by March, but the new date is now more likely to be the middle of April. Network Rail said it will be 'working night and day with dedicated resources' to get the work done as quickly as possible.

Last weekend's storm caused more damage, increasing the scope of the repairs. However, Network Rail said the first defences which it had installed, including a,line of 11 steel freight containers loaded with sand and stones, had reduced the potential impact and helped prevent further damage to the houses nearby.

But Network Rail also warned that its timetable for repairs still depends on the weather. The storm on the evening of 14 February almost halted work, with only three hours achieved before the rising waves and spray made it impossible to continue. The savage tides that night also enlarged the main breach in the sea wall by another 30 per cent.

Engineers have since laid concrete foundations at this breach and also at the secondary breach at nearby Dawlish Warren. They have also started to repair the down platform at Dawlish station and clear more debris from the coastal route. To protect the site, 15 steel containers -- weighing around 70tonnes each -- have now been installed to form a temporary breakwater, and a scaffold bridge has also been built to reconnect services and signalling equipment.

Patrick Hallgate, who is route managing director for Network Rail Western said: “We are all conscious of the importance of this railway to the South West, its economy and the people of Dawlish. They have been tremendous in supporting our team and understanding of the challenges we face. We are confident that we will have the railway back by mid-April and if we can we will beat that date."

First Gteat Western managing director Mark Hopwood added: "We appreciate Network Rail's efforts to work round the clock to get the line reopen so we can resume services as soon as possible.

"Until the line reopens we are running trains between Exeter and London and between Newton Abbot and Penzance with bus services linking these, to keep our passengers moving.

"We will be ready to run services once Network Rail completes the work and until then we will do everything we can to minimise disruption."

To allow everyone to witness the progress of the restoration, Network Rail has set up a live video feed.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Roger Capel, Sheffield

    Never mind a NEW line, how about doing a "Transport Scotland" & examining the reopening of the closed portion of the LSWR route to Plymouth south of Meldon Quarry, while upgrading the surviving portions out of Exeter & Plymouth? Unlike the Great Western mainline, it WAS fairly weatherproof & in the long term, if this sort of thing is likely to recurr, probably the cheaper option.

  • John C Gaughan, Hanover

    If the channel can be tunneled why not a tunnel under the
    sea wall. I have travelled that route many times and it
    is beautiful. Over the long haul wouldn't it be cheaper?

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    "The money spent rebuilding this hugely expensive sea wall is money down the drain."

    Except that it isn't just the railway the sea wall protects, it's the town behind it.

    Unless you wish to sacrifice the town as well as the line, we have to do whatever it takes to keep the sea wall there, regardless of what else gets built.

  • James, London

    Perhaps they should just get on and build the Dawlish avoiding line. The money spent rebuilding this hugely expensive sea wall is money down the drain.

  • dogsauce, Leeds

    Presumably this is also affecting freight traffic, it's not like you can put that on a rail replacement bus. Has the impact on freight been reported?

  • Dave Gilbert, Swaffham

    Great to hear the work is progressing so well despite the bad storm again last weekend .

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    The whole line needs to be carefully inspected. The weakening has probably affected the whole sea wall, and may very well lead to further collapses in time. As soon as the line re-opens, the Politicians will totally forget about any other by-pass route. But I am impressed with the effort and dedication being shown to get this line re-opened.

  • Tim, Devon

    I think 2 whole months closed clearly shows that a new line is needed. Having almost 1 million people cut off from the railway network for 2 months in unacceptable and costing businesses in the south west millions.