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Around 100 metres of sea wall was destroyed by storms in early 2014 causing a significant stretch of railway to collapse into the sea
Video: Dawlish, one year on
The above time-lapse video shows the extensive work undertaken by our "orange army" over the last year to restore the south west's rail connection and make the line more resilient for the future.
One year on, work continues around the clock to bolster and improve sea defences on the route.
This current activity includes:
Over 4 and 5 February 2014, very strong winds and high seas severely damaged the railway line that runs through Dawlish washing away a section of the sea wall, 80 metres of track, platforms at Dawlish station and sections of the coastal path.
Another storm on 14 February dislodged the temporary barriers and destroyed further sections of the sea wall and caused a lesser secondary breach closer to Dawlish Warren.
Our 300-strong army of engineers, known to the locals as the 'orange army', battled for over two months to overcome every obstacle thrown at it by Mother Nature as they worked to repair a 100m breach at Riviera Terrace, Dawlish, following storms on 4 and 14 February 2014. Work included:
With the most critical phase of the restoration complete and the line reopened, engineers moved to the less critical phase:
Weather forecasts warn of a major storm off the coast of Devon and Cornwall. Our system of marine buoys predict "black" storm conditions with six-metre waves - the first such conditions predicted since we installed the system in 2007.
At 3.15pm the line through Dawlish is closed to trains, staff are withdrawn to safe locations.
Through the evening, serious overtopping by waves is reported. Reports of damage to the railway and adjoining land start coming through at around 9pm.
Track inspections between 11pm and 2.30am confirm the extent of the damage.
At first light, engineers arrive on site but are unable to assess the damage due to the continuing storm.
Teams of engineers, contractors and suppliers head to Dawlish. Work begins at the on-site compound to gather the machinery required to shore up the damage, including spray-concrete equipment.
Machinery is delivered to the site and work begins.
A ramp into the hole is constructed for access.
Concrete spraying begins, with the aim of shoring up the sea wall before another Atlantic storm system arrives on Saturday, while work continues to demolish the most damaged platform at Dawlish station itself, prior to rebuilding.
Rail and concrete sleepers cut away, placed across the bottom of the damaged section and being reinforced with sprayed fast-drying concrete. It is hoped this will absorb enough of the force of the waves so that the weakened sub-soil will not erode further.
Specialist contractors, engineers and suppliers from across the country are mobilised and the offer of discussions with the Ministry of Defence to see if there is any help available from armed forces based in the south-west.
Demolition of the most damaged platform at Dawlish station has been completed.
Services have resumed between Plymouth and Newton Abbot, but there will be no trains east of Newton Abbot to Exeter until the line is repaired.
A row of shipping containers is being put in place and filled with rubble to provide a breakwater, and concrete spraying continues between high tides.
A temporary breakwater is erected from rubble-filled shipping containers allowing the start of repairs to the main area of damage.
Watch a video of work to reconstruct the breakwater (YouTube).
Construction starts on a temporary sea-wall using sand and stone-filled shipping containers, and scaffolding is being erected to start work on the rebuild.
11 shipping containers are welded together and filled with sand and stone to form a new temporary sea wall, and scaffolding is erected to give workers better access to start repairs.
Work progresses on building a cable bridge so we can pass services and signalling equipment over the rail bed to allow us to reconnect and take the recabling.
The temporary sea wall at Dawlish is swamped by massive seas during the night which battered and damaged the 10-tonne shipping containers forming the temporary sea wall.
Further sections of the old sea wall are destroyed - the breach is 30% bigger - as well as a lesser secondary breach closer to Dawlish Warren.
Friday night's storm caused significant further damage to the sea wall with a further 10-20 metres destroyed. An additional four shipping containers are put into place to protect the new damage to the sea wall.
Concrete foundations start to be laid but the additional damage to the sea wall caused by Friday' nights storm will impact on how quickly we can restore the track.
Work on clearing and restoring the parapet walls continues, and reinforcing the concrete foundations with steel begins at the main breach site.
More concrete foundations laid and work to restore the station progresses.
A concrete foundation is laid in the main breach as well as the secondary breach at Dawlish Warren.
Repairs have started to the station platform, and more debris is cleared along the coastal route.
Track is being built for the area between the station and tunnel, and preparation work starts to install shuttering for the rear wall at the main site and at Dawlish Warren. Concrete pouring to the walkway continues and new coping stones begin to be laid at the station platform.
All steels now fixed to the rear wall and concrete pour to the main breach complete.
Engineers discover that 20,000 tonnes of cliff face near Teignmouth has sheared away above the railway. This will need stabilising before the track can safely reopen.
200m of track is built ready for installing along the main site (between the tunnels) and surveys are taking place to check ground conditions. Around half the new coping stones needed at the station platform are installed.
Work has started to restore the station canopies while replacing the platform coping stones nears completion.
New sleepers are being installed between Dawlish Warren and the main breach site, and work is underway to remove the slip material between Kennaway Tunnel and Teignmouth station.
Work is nearly complete installing the front pre-cast concrete L-sections at the main breach site, with the rear L-sections nearing half complete. Work to install new sleepers continues and is almost finished, whilst at Dawlish station, the coping stones are laid with all trunking and cabling for lighting complete.
Installing the pre-cast concrete 'L' sections at the main breach site is almost done as is the concrete pour for the new parapets between Dawlish Warren and the main site, and between Kennaway Tunnel to Teignmouth station. All railway sleepers are completely renewed and the ballast beneath them has been tamped (packed by repeated tapping).
The repairs at Dawlish station are nearing completion with a new canopy and lights fitted to platform 1 with platform 2 nearly complete.
We're creating a controlled landslip near Teignmouth where about 20,000 tonnes of cliff face sheared away above the track in early March. With the help of Devon and Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, we're spraying thousands of litres of water every minute onto the slip to encourage it to complete its fall to the railway below.
After consultations with Cornwall’s china clay industry, we've brought a high pressure water cannon onto site that is proving very effective at turning the red earth of the slip into slurry that’s running off into the sea.
Teignmouth controlled landslip footage from our unmanned aerial vehicle (YouTube)
At the soilslip site at Woodland Avenue near Teignmouth, three-quarters of the loose soil is jettisoned into the sea. We continue to spray the landslip to bring down the remaining loose material.
At the main breach site, temporary track is laid to allow service trains (tamping trains, trains carrying ballast etc) to access the area. This will all be re-laid ready for reopening the line.
We anticipate starting to clear the sheared cliff face material from 28 March ready for new ballast and track to be laid, and hope to finish laying new ballast and track at the main breach site by midnight.
Repairs to Dawlish station are almost finished with minor snagging being carried out.
Work continues to remove the sheared cliff face at Woodland Avenue near Teignmouth. We're using Spidermax, a specialised piece of kit that allows us to safely undertake mechanised work very close to the edge at the top of the cliff face - it means we can profile the cliff top in complete safety.
We continue to test the signalling equipment, and are installing fences between Dawlish station and Kennaway Tunnel over the next three days.
Traffic control and barriers remain on the road so that equipment and skips can be removed quickly.
Following eight weeks of painstaking repairs to the storm-ravaged railway at Dawlish the line reopens.
Mark Carne, chief executive, Network Rail
Our ‘orange army’ reaches an important milestone by starting improvement work on the final section of walkway between Rockstone and Coast Guard footbridges. Once complete, this improvement work means that every section of the walkway from Dawlish Warren to Teignmouth is open.
The work includes building a new wall in front of the existing sea wall to provide further protection against any future extreme weather, and reconstructing the walkway so that its height is level with the sections on either side. This means that it can be used in all tidal conditions, whereas historically this section was not accessible during high tides.
To undertake this extensive work and ensure the railway can continue to operate as normal, a temporary barge is set up on the beach next to the railway line, to act as a base from which the ‘orange army’ can work. In October 2014, a second barge will be installed so that the work is completed as quickly as possible.
6 February - aerial view showing the breached sea defences and collapsed train line
27 February - aerial view. Photo by Network Rail Air Operations Team
September 2014 - temporary barge on the beach at Dawlish next to the railway line acting as a base from which our 'orange army' can work
25 March - main earthslip site between Sprey Point and Smugglers Cove revealing solid rock behind the loose soil
25 March - view showing the tops of the rubble filled containers and the new concrete pre-cast 'L' sections of the parapet wall
25 March - securing steel reinforcement rods for concrete repairs to parapet wall near Sea Lawn Terrace
24 March - progress removing the sheared cliff face near Teignmouth with around 25% loose soil still to remove
20 March -high powered pumps are being used to create a controlled landslip after 20,000 tonnes of cliff face sheared away near Teignmouth
20 March - aerial view of the controlled landslip operation near Teignmouth
18 March - tamping the line near Coastguards footbridge
18 March - Dawlish station
18 March - completed parapet wall near Rockstone footbridge
13 March - new precast concrete L-sections at main breach site
13 March - repairs to inner and outer wall at main breach site
13 March - moving inner L-sections into position
13 March - main site looking east
13 March - precast concrete L-sections viewed from sea-facing side
13 March - London end of main breach site
13 March - Dawlish station platform repairs
13 March - refurbishing Dawlish station canopy
11 March - progress installing the pre-cast concrete 'L' sections
5 March - installing the first pre-cast concrete section
5 March - shuttering for the parapet wall
5 March - steel reinforcing being installed
5 March - start of steel reinforcing
5 March - preparing the parapet wall for reinforcing
5 March - looking down on the new track bed (construction in progress)
5 March - view of the main site
5 March - installing the trough the signal cables sit in
5 March - new signal cable getting ready to lay in the trough
5 March - glass fibre moulds to create the public side of the parapet wall (the side next to the track is plain concrete)
28 February: Secretary of State for Transport together with Mark Carne, Network Rail CEO and Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail route managing director see the force of the sea
27 February: drilling to install vertical steel reinforcing rods
27 February: view along the coast from Sprey Point towards Smugglers Cove and Parsons Tunnel
27 February: damage to ramp at Sprey Point yet to be restored
27 February: steel reinforcing rods being installed for the next layer of concrete at the back of the main breach site
26 February: concrete being poured which will ultimately support the roadway area
26 February: view towards Dawlish station showing the equipment supporting the pipe carrying concrete from the road to site
26 February: new platform coping stones being laid at the station
26 February: damaged station platform
25 February - pouring concrete to walkways
24 February - reinforcing the concrete foundations
21 February - main breach site. The tops of the vertical drains are visible and are extended as each concrete layer is added. The horizontal steels will tie the pre-cast concrete blocks to the poured concrete.
21 February - repairs to walkway near site of second breach, between Rockstone footbridge and Dawlish Warren
19 February - view from Dawlish station looking towards Kennaway Tunnel where concrete is being poured to repair the damaged walkway and sea wall.
19 February - damage to the walkway between the main breach and Rockstone footbridge. Large debris has been moved. The second breach is seen in the distance.
19 February - ongoing repairs
19 February - just beyond the second breach showing preparations for a new surface to the walkway. View looks towards Dawlish Warren with the main site behind the camera.
19 February - work progresses on restoration at the station
19 February - more concrete being poured close to the digger via the red pipe
17 February - concrete foundations being laid
17 February - preparing the site ready for pouring concrete. Heavy rain has made the ground very muddy.
Additional damage to the temporary breakwater after 14 February storm
Additional damage after 14 February storm
Damage before 14 February storm
13 February - storm in full swing
12 February - work progresses on building a cable bridge
11/12 February - overnight work to build a scaffold walkway
10 February - view of the breakwater made from rubble filled shipping containers
Containers filled with rubble (before the 14 February storm)
9 February - work continues to protect the subsoil
9 February - shoring up the bank with concrete
8 February - the scrapped rails and the first spray of concrete to shore up the bank
6 February: Workers removing damaged track
6 February - track engineers survey the damage
6 February - damaged sea defences and collapsed track
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