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.

Upgrading track on the Tarka Line

employees taking samples of the cliffs at teignmouth

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.

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

Protecting the Railway through Teignmouth and Dawlish

West of Exeter Route Resilience Study

Network Rail commissioned the engineering company CH2M Hill (now a part of Jacobs) to conduct a study into the future options for the route between Exeter and Newton Abbot. The full study documents are below.


During 2019, we are working to upgrade sections of the track on the Tarka Line between Crediton and Barnstaple in Devon.

The work continues a programme of improvements that started in 2017 to boost reliability and performance on this stretch of railway. From 10pm on Friday 22 February until 6am on Monday 4 March, Eggesford level crossing will be closed to vehicles while we install new components. Please see the diversion route below.

A traffic marshal will be on hand to ensure pedestrians can cross safely. This work follows the recent resurfacing of the crossing and track renewal through the station.

We will also be returning to improve the drainage on 18 March for four nights, from 10pm until 7am the following morning, when the crossing will also be closed.