Severn Estuary Resilience Programme

We have developed a multi-million pound plan to improve the resilience of the Newport-Gloucester line which connects South Wales with the West Country, Midlands and north of England, providing a vital link for passengers.

The video below shows the installation of a mesh-and-bolt system on a steep cutting along a mile of railway near Lydney.  The work was carried out between 31 July and 18 August 2023. Please note, this video has no audio description or voice over.

As the line runs along the Severn Estuary it’s exposed to rain, wind and sea. More frequent extreme weather has seen the line regularly devastated by landslips, leading to extended closures of the railway and temporary speed restrictions.

As well as disrupting passengers, this also impacts essential freight services, with 43 freight trains passing through every week, moving, steel, petrol, and construction materials. The route also serves ‘Tesco trains’, keeping supermarkets stocked with essential supplies. With the long-term viability of the line at stake, £25m is being invested, with more to come, to help protect the railway’s future. 

Phase 2 – summer 2023

In summer 2023, we carried out a second intensive phase of work in this area, focusing on a one-mile stretch close to Purton, just west of phase one.

Over three weeks during a planned closure of the railway, we removed 1,000 tonnes of stockpiled material from the cutting, along with existing mesh. We then began installation of an ‘active’ system of 19,500 square metres of mesh, secured by 5,000 bolts, which will hold the cliff face in place.  

Now this phase is well underway, work will continue during the daytime until early 2024 to continue to drill the bolts into the cutting. 

Phase one – summer 2022

During a planned seven-week closure of the line in summer 2022, more than 15,000 tonnes of material was removed from the face of a two-mile stretch of a steep cutting near Lydney, just east of phase 2.

Teams on ropes then installed a mesh and bolt system on the slopes, to stop falling material from affecting the track below.  After follow-up work in the autumn of 2022, a total of 27,000 square metres of mesh was secured by 1,000 soil nails, drilled to a depth of up to 10m. 

Impact of extreme weather

The stretch of line covered by phase two was hit by three landslips in January 2023 alone, following a bout of prolonged and heavy rain.

The line was forced to close in early January following a 100-tonne landslip, highlighting the need for our continued investment to protect the railway. We were alerted to the movement of earth by our state-of-the-art slope monitoring system, on 4 January.

Over the next four days, rope access teams worked around the clock to descale the 100ft cliff face, near Purton, by hand and remove the large amount of soil and rock from the tracks.  

The extreme rain caused a culvert to collapse and washed away four tonnes of ballast – the stones beneath the tracks – with engineers carrying out repairs to both.

Concrete ‘Legato’ blocks were also installed at the bottom of the slopes to contain failed material and prevent it from reaching the track. Further material failed close by in this section later in January but the track was protected by measures installed following the initial failure.

A landslip also happened in the phase one section. This was trapped by the mesh we installed in 2022, preventing significant disruption.

Future work

Our work to make the line more resilient is due to continue until 2026.

In 2024, we’ll be returning to carry out further stabilisation to the area covered in phase one. This will upgrade the ‘passive’ mesh system put in place to catch falling material to an ‘active’ system, which holds the cliff material in place.

Get in touch

If you have any questions about our work, please call our National Helpline on 03457 11 41 41 or email