Devon and Cornwall

A resilient railway for the South West: Exeter to Newton Abbot geo-environment resilience study

Established by Brunel in 1846, the section of the Western route between Exeter and Newton Abbot is one of the most iconic railway lines in Britain.

The route and the impact of the environment and extreme weather

The route runs through the Exe estuary alongside open coastline between Dawlish and Teignmouth, and the Teign estuary. It was originally selected as it was the only area that offered a level foundation for trains to travel along.  However, since its construction the route has been constrained and impacted by its environment.

The railway between Exeter and Newton Abbot was badly hit by extreme weather conditions in February 2014, which caused the catastrophic destruction of the Dawlish Sea Wall and failure of the cliffs at Teignmouth. This meant that passenger and freight services to the South West peninsula had to be suspended.

Repairing the damage – the cost

The railway line was reopened after six weeks at a cost of £50m. The overall impact of the disruption to the South West economy was estimated to be in excess of £1bn.

Long-term resilience

The Government subsequently tasked us with conducting a study into the long-term resilience of the railway line to the South West peninsula.

Exeter to Newton Abbot geo environment resilience study executive summary