Protecting the track between Dawlish and Holcombe

Phase 4 of the South West Rail Resilience Programme covers the stretch of the railway between Dawlish and our work at Parson’s Tunnel, Holcombe.

Funding of £32m for this phase was announced by the Department for Transport in April 2022, taking the total invested in the programme to more than £150m.

Project update

Work on installing the resilience measures along the 1km stretch of railway is due to start in July 2023 and is expected to finish in spring 2024.

The selection process for the contract emphasised the importance of the environment in this area and we are working with Natural England on the areas that fall within the Dawlish Cliffs Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

What does the work involve?

We will be installing coir matting on the cliff face, followed by 19,700 square metres of stainless steel netting, secured by 5,260 soil nails drilled to depths of up to 12m into the face of the cliff.

In the areas that fall within the Dawlish Cliffs SSSI, temporary grey/blue matting will be installed for the safety of workers. This will be removed once the netting is installed, so that as much of the cliff face as possible can still be seen.

Our hours of work will be:

  • Monday to Friday during the daytime between 7:30 and 17:30.
  • From 23:55 on Saturday nights to 08:00 on Sunday mornings, as some of the work can only be safely carried out while trains are not running.

The South West coast path runs alongside some areas of the project and we are very aware of the need to keep it open as much as possible.

Footpath closures 

To keep everyone safe, we will be closing footpaths from Lea Mount park down onto Marine Parade, Dawlish, between Monday 4 September 2023 and Wednesday 31 January 2024. However, there will still be access into Lea Mount park from Teignmouth Road. 

We will also need to intermittently close Kennaway footbridge near Boat Cove for a few hours at a time to keep everyone safe when we are drilling soil nails into the cliff close by. This will be managed in line with the sea conditions to ensure there is always an alternative safe route other than the sea wall during a storm. 

Preparation work

We are putting in haul roads at cliff-top locations so that materials can safely be taken to site and are also setting up some smaller compound sites which will be used to prepare the grout that will be used to secure the nails in place.  

Throughout the planning and installation work, our team will be based at our compound on Teignmouth Road, which is used for welfare, parking and storage of materials and machinery. 

The compound is expected to be in use for the Dawlish to Holcombe project from now until Spring 2024, subject to land agreement. 

The images below show the Teignmouth Road compound, our haul roads to smaller compounds at the crest of the cliff.  

Vegetation management

We are removing vegetation on sections of the cliffs between Dawlish and Holcombe to allow us to install the resilience measures.

While removing vegetation may leave the cliff face looking somewhat bare to begin with, the vegetation will, with time, grow back through the mesh.

The images below show the sections of cliff where vegetation has or will be removed where necessary. The areas in green show individual Cliff Behavioural Units (CBUs) which are numbered to help us identify the cliff type and resilience solution required.

Parson’s Tunnel North Portal to Dawlish – northern section
Parson’s Tunnel North Portal to Dawlish – southern section

Contact us

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.