We are making the line between Dawlish and Teignmouth more resilient

The railway is a vital artery, which connects communities, businesses and visitors in 50 towns and cities in the South West with the rest of the UK. Since the damage caused by heavy storms which resulted in a six-week closure of the railway in 2014, Network Rail has been developing plans to improve the resilience of the railway between Exeter and Newton Abbot.

Working to stabalise the cliff face high above the railway

The South West Rail Resilience Programme was established by Network Rail to identify and implement the best options to improve rail resilience between Dawlish and Teignmouth, helping to avoid a repetition of the events of 2014.

Parson's Tunnel to Teignmouth project

We are proposing to realign the tracks in order to make room for corrective measures to stabilise the cliffs and therefore protect the railway for generations to come.

This 1.8km stretch of railway between Parsons Tunnel, near Holcombe, and Teignmouth in South Devon is a crucial, but vulnerable link which is bordered by steep cliffs on one side and the sea on the other.

Records show that landslips and rockfalls have affected the railway since it was built in the 19th century, with the last major event in 2014 stopping all trains into or out of the South west for six weeks. This had a huge impact on the local and regional economy.

Feedback from the first public consultation in 2019 helped inform the development of our proposals and a second round of consultation ran for six weeks from Monday 20 January to 01 March 2020.

Dawlish Sea Wall

We’re working on a new, larger sea wall that will protect the railway and the town for the next 100 years. Visit our Dawlish Sea Wall page to find out more about the first section of this project at Marine Parade.

We’re also planning to submit proposals for the remainder of the new sea wall between Coastguards and Colonnade breakwaters in June 2020. Visit our Dawlish Sea Wall section two page to find out more.

How did we get here?

Following the extreme weather event of 2014, we undertook a complex and expensive repair operation to reinstate the line between Dawlish and Teignmouth, this work cost £50m.

Since 2014 we have been working continuously on the line and putting together plans to safeguard this vital rail artery into the South West, and out to the rest of the Britain, for future generations. This includes three studies in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

In November 2018, a 9-month plan of work began to repair the breakwaters at Dawlish as they were not providing the required level of protection this section of rail line requires and in summer 2019 we began work to replace the existing sea wall on Marine Parade, Dawlish.

Dawlish: five years since the storm that collapsed the railway

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.

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.

Exeter-Newton Abbot Resilience Strategy

Parsons Tunnel to Teignmouth

Get in touch

If you have any additional questions or concerns about the work taking place in your area please call our dedicated 24-hour National Helpline on: 03457 11 41 41 or visit our contact us page.