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Plans to reduce flood risk for passengers between Bristol and Exeter

Aerial view of the flooding at Hele

We have developed plans to reduce frequent flooding on the railway at Hele, Devon, by replacing two road bridges. Our proposals will be submitted to the local planning authority, Mid-Devon District Council, in late 2021.

If approved, the scheme will reduce closures of vital transport links and the impact of flooding on local businesses.

Page contents

  1. Background information
  2. Our proposals
  3. Road closure and bus service
  4. Environmental implications
  5. Background documents
  6. The planning process
  7. Contact us

Background information

This £7.2m scheme is part of the Department for Transport’s wider package of work to reduce flooding on the Great Western Main Line. Much of this programme has already been completed across the network.

The River Culm that runs through Hele is prone to flooding, causing damage to properties and businesses, frequently cutting the village in half and closing the railway. It is predicted this flooding will happen more frequently in the future due to the impact of global warming.

A lack of adequate flood defence systems means that water backs up against Station Road, Hele, which acts like a weir, forcing water over the railway at its low point north of the level crossing.

As the flood water level increases, Station Road floods – as do nearby properties. This causes significant disruption and damage to rail services, residents and local businesses.

Our proposals

Artists impression of Hele

To reduce the impact of flooding at Hele and across the South West, we have developed plans in conjunction with the Environment Agency which will help to reduce flooding on the railway and road.

We cannot mitigate against all potential for flooding – instead, this scheme intends to reduce the frequency and impact of flooding. We propose to raise the road levels with new structures that will be better able to cope with flooding, providing a long-term solution.

The scope of the work at Hele will include:

  • Completion of diversion of services  
  • Construction of a raised viaduct at Station Road, after the demolition of existing bridge
  • Construction of a raised access bridge to Devon Valley Mill, followed by demolition of existing bridge, subject to agreement with the mill owners
  • Reprofiling of the flood basin to further reduce flooding risk to the highway and railway.
  • Local flood mitigation at Hele Square, subject to agreement with affected residents and other measures that may be required.

Road closure and bus service

Station Road, Hele, will need to be closed for approximately 32 weeks for us to install the new structures. The proposed diversion route is approximately five miles long via Bradninch and runs via Station Road along West End Road, Fore Street, Cullompton Hill and the B3181.

We plan to provide pedestrian access to the level crossing throughout the work via a temporary footbridge. We are working with the local bus service provider to ensure a suitable shuttle bus service is provided. Details of the timetable will be published well in advance.

Environmental implications

We have undertaken a preliminary ecological appraisal for the scheme. Further surveys would be required prior to starting work, if our planning application is successful. Various mitigation measures would also be required during construction.

Background documents

The planning process

We expect to submit our proposals to the local planning authority, Mid-Devon District Council, in late 2021. The formal planning process will allow you to submit your views and comments to the council for consideration before a decision is made.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the plans, you can send us an email at:

You can also visit our contact us page, call our 24-hour national helpline on 03457 11 41 41 or you can contact us on Twitter @networkrailwest

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