Network Rail has installed a new flood defence barrier to protect passenger journeys from being disrupted by flooding to the north of Exeter.

The barrier, which was installed at the end of May, is part of a £26.5 million programme to reduce the regular disruption to long distance and local (Tarka Line) rail services, between the city of Exeter and the town of Barnstaple that is often caused by flooding of the River Exe around the Cowley Bridge Junction area.

The new metal flood defence barrier can be quickly assembled across the railway when poor weather is forecast and stops the flow of the flood water. When not in use, the barrier remains largely unseen, which means the local landscape remains largely unchanged.

The first part of this project was the installation of large flood drains in 2018, which allow water to drain underneath the railway and safely away from the railway.

Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s Route Director for the Western route, said:

“We are delighted to be further improving the reliability of journeys for passengers travelling to and from the south west.  While we can’t control the weather, we can put in place measures that will help protect the railway from flooding and services not running.

“The area north of Exeter regularly floods and stops rail services running between Devon, Cornwall and the rest of the country. It’s vital for passengers, businesses and the regional economy that we prevent this from happening. The new flood barrier is one of the latest measures we’ve put in place, working with the Environment Agency, to reduce this from happening last year. In February this year, we experienced an extreme amount of wet weather and we were able to see that these measures are already starting to help.”

Simon Dart, Flood and Coastal Management Advisor for the Environment Agency, added:

“We were keen to support Network Rail’s project that helps protect this major route from flooding.  The barrier is a part of the new Exeter flood defence scheme and helps to better protect the St David’s area of Exeter, including hundreds of homes and commercial development, plus strategically important roads and infrastructure.”