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  • Dawlish

    Around 100 metres of sea wall was destroyed by storms in early 2014 causing a significant stretch of railway to collapse into the sea

  • Video: Dawlish, one year on

  • Job done

    Work to rebuild and strengthen the sea wall at Dawlish - the final stage of the project - has been completed. The new raised sea wall now stretches continuously for four miles.

    The old seafront walkway was regularly cut off at high tide, while the new one is protected from the sea and gives superb views along the coast.

    The new wall and walkway was officially opened by Mayor of Dawlish, Howard Almond, on Friday 14 August 2015.

    One year on

    The above time-lapse video shows the extensive work undertaken by our "orange army" over the year since the sea breached the wall to restore the south west's rail connection and make the line more resilient for the future.

    Work continues around the clock to bolster and improve sea defences on the route.

    This current activity includes:

    • Cliff stabilisation work between Teignmouth and Dawlish.
    • Fully restoring signalling and electronic equipment.
    • Restoring and improving the public footpath on the sea wall so residents will be able to use it at high tide (previously not possible).


    Over 4 and 5 February 2014, very strong winds and high seas severely damaged the railway line that runs through Dawlish washing away a section of the sea wall, 80 metres of track, platforms at Dawlish station and sections of the coastal path.

    Another storm on 14 February dislodged the temporary barriers and destroyed further sections of the sea wall and caused a lesser secondary breach closer to Dawlish Warren.

    Our 'orange army'

    Our 300-strong army of engineers, known to the locals as the 'orange army', battled for over two months to overcome every obstacle thrown at it by Mother Nature as they worked to repair a 100m breach at Riviera Terrace, Dawlish, following storms on 4 and 14 February 2014. Work included:

    • Installing a temporary sea wall made from 19 welded shipping containers to prevent further damage
    • Rebuilding and fortifying the breach with more than 6,000 tonnes of concrete and 150 tonnes of steel
    • Removing 25,000 tonnes of collapsed cliff at Woodlands Avenue, Teignmouth, following a landslip on 4 March 2014, using high pressure water canon, fire hoses, helicopter-borne water bombs, specialist roped access team and ‘spider’ excavators
    • Repairing dozens of other sites along a four mile stretch of coastal railway, clearing hundred of tonnes of debris and repairing over 600m of parapet wall
    • Rebuilding half of Dawlish station with a new platform, new canopy and repainting throughout with the finishing touches provided by TV gardener, Toby Buckland, and members of the ‘Friends of Dawlish station’
    • Installing over 13 miles of new cables, designing and installing a new temporary signalling system and replacing over 700m of track and ballast

    With the most critical phase of the restoration complete and the line reopened, engineers moved to the less critical phase:

    • Fully restoring the signalling and electronic equipment
    • Removing the shipping container temporary sea wall
    • Rebuilding Brunel’s original sea-wall at the breach site
    • Restoring the public footpath on the seaward side of the sea wall
    • Rebuilding the ‘lost road’ at Riviera Terrace
  • Timeline

    Tuesday 4 February

    Weather forecasts warn of a major storm off the coast of Devon and Cornwall. Our system of marine buoys predict "black" storm conditions with six-metre waves - the first such conditions predicted since we installed the system in 2007.

    At 3.15pm the line through Dawlish is closed to trains, staff are withdrawn to safe locations.

    Through the evening, serious overtopping by waves is reported. Reports of damage to the railway and adjoining land start coming through at around 9pm.

    Track inspections between 11pm and 2.30am confirm the extent of the damage.

    Wednesday 5 February

    At first light, engineers arrive on site but are unable to assess the damage due to the continuing storm.

    Teams of engineers, contractors and suppliers head to Dawlish. Work begins at the on-site compound to gather the machinery required to shore up the damage, including spray-concrete equipment.

    Thursday 6 February

    Machinery is delivered to the site and work begins.

    A ramp into the hole is constructed for access.

    Friday 7 February

    Concrete spraying begins, with the aim of shoring up the sea wall before another Atlantic storm system arrives on Saturday, while work continues to demolish the most damaged platform at Dawlish station itself, prior to rebuilding.

    Saturday 8 February

    Rail and concrete sleepers cut away, placed across the bottom of the damaged section and being reinforced with sprayed fast-drying concrete. It is hoped this will absorb enough of the force of the waves so that the weakened sub-soil will not erode further.

    Specialist contractors, engineers and suppliers from across the country are mobilised and the offer of discussions with the Ministry of Defence to see if there is any help available from armed forces based in the south-west.

    Demolition of the most damaged platform at Dawlish station has been completed.

    Services have resumed between Plymouth and Newton Abbot, but there will be no trains east of Newton Abbot to Exeter until the line is repaired.

    Sunday 9 February

    A row of shipping containers is being put in place and filled with rubble to provide a breakwater, and concrete spraying continues between high tides.

    Monday 10 February

    A temporary breakwater is erected from rubble-filled shipping containers allowing the start of repairs to the main area of damage.

    Watch a video of work to reconstruct the breakwater (YouTube).

    Tuesday 11 February

    Construction starts on a temporary sea-wall using sand and stone-filled shipping containers, and scaffolding is being erected to start work on the rebuild.

    Wednesday 12 February

    11 shipping containers are welded together and filled with sand and stone to form a new temporary sea wall, and scaffolding is erected to give workers better access to start repairs.

    Work progresses on building a cable bridge so we can pass services and signalling equipment over the rail bed to allow us to reconnect and take the recabling.

    Saturday 15 February

    The temporary sea wall at Dawlish is swamped by massive seas during the night which battered and damaged the 10-tonne shipping containers forming the temporary sea wall.

    Further sections of the old sea wall are destroyed - the breach is 30% bigger - as well as a lesser secondary breach closer to Dawlish Warren.

    Sunday 16 February

    Friday night's storm caused significant further damage to the sea wall with a further 10-20 metres destroyed. An additional four shipping containers are put into place to protect the new damage to the sea wall.

    Monday 17 February

    Concrete foundations start to be laid but the additional damage to the sea wall caused by Friday' nights storm will impact on how quickly we can restore the track.

    Monday 24 February

    Work on clearing and restoring the parapet walls continues, and reinforcing the concrete foundations with steel begins at the main breach site.

    Friday 21 February

    More concrete foundations laid and work to restore the station progresses.

    Wednesday 19 February

    A concrete foundation is laid in the main breach as well as the secondary breach at Dawlish Warren.

    Repairs have started to the station platform, and more debris is cleared along the coastal route.

    Wednesday 26 February

    Track is being built for the area between the station and tunnel, and preparation work starts to install shuttering for the rear wall at the main site and at Dawlish Warren. Concrete pouring to the walkway continues and new coping stones begin to be laid at the station platform.

    Thursday 27 February

    All steels now fixed to the rear wall and concrete pour to the main breach complete.

    Tuesday 4 March

    Engineers discover that 20,000 tonnes of cliff face near Teignmouth has sheared away above the railway. This will need stabilising before the track can safely reopen.  

     200m of track is built ready for installing along the main site (between the tunnels) and surveys are taking place to check ground conditions. Around half the new coping stones needed at the station platform are installed.

    Monday 10 March

    Work has started to restore the station canopies while replacing the platform coping stones nears completion.

    New sleepers are being installed between Dawlish Warren and the main breach site, and work is underway to remove the slip material between Kennaway Tunnel and Teignmouth station.

    Monday 17 March

    Work is nearly complete installing the front pre-cast concrete L-sections at the main breach site, with the rear L-sections nearing half complete. Work to install new sleepers continues and is almost finished, whilst at Dawlish station, the coping stones are laid with all trunking and cabling for lighting complete.

    Wednesday 19 March

    Installing the pre-cast concrete 'L' sections at the main breach site is almost done as is the concrete pour for the new parapets between Dawlish Warren and the main site, and between Kennaway Tunnel to Teignmouth station. All railway sleepers are completely renewed and the ballast beneath them has been tamped (packed by repeated tapping).

    The repairs at Dawlish station are nearing completion with a new canopy and lights fitted to platform 1 with platform 2 nearly complete.

    Friday 21 March

    We're creating a controlled landslip near Teignmouth where about 20,000 tonnes of cliff face sheared away above the track in early March. With the help of Devon and Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, we're spraying thousands of litres of water every minute onto the slip to encourage it to complete its fall to the railway below.

    After consultations with Cornwall’s china clay industry, we've brought a high pressure water cannon onto site that is proving very effective at turning the red earth of the slip into slurry that’s running off into the sea.

    Teignmouth controlled landslip footage from our unmanned aerial vehicle (YouTube)

    Monday 24 March

    At the soilslip site at Woodland Avenue near Teignmouth, three-quarters of the loose soil is jettisoned into the sea. We continue to spray the landslip to bring down the remaining loose material.

    At the main breach site, temporary track is laid to allow service trains (tamping trains, trains carrying ballast etc) to access the area. This will all be re-laid ready for reopening the line.

    Wednesday 26 March

    We anticipate starting to clear the sheared cliff face material from 28 March ready for new ballast and track to be laid, and hope to finish laying new ballast and track at the main breach site by midnight.

    Repairs to Dawlish station are almost finished with minor snagging being carried out.

    Friday 28 March

    Work continues to remove the sheared cliff face at Woodland Avenue near Teignmouth. We're using Spidermax, a specialised piece of kit that allows us to safely undertake mechanised work very close to the edge at the top of the cliff face - it means we can profile the cliff top in complete safety.

    We continue to test the signalling equipment, and are installing fences between Dawlish station and Kennaway Tunnel over the next three days.

    Traffic control and barriers remain on the road so that equipment and skips can be removed quickly.

    Friday 4 April, the line reopens

    Following eight weeks of painstaking repairs to the storm-ravaged railway at Dawlish the line reopens.

    “Our army of engineers has done an amazing job of putting back together a railway that was ravaged by the elements. They have overcome every obstacle thrown at them, winning many battles along the way to restore this critical piece of the network, ahead of schedule, and in time for the Easter holidays.

    The biggest thanks must be reserved for passengers and local communities and businesses who have been hugely supportive and patient over the past two months as we worked flat-out to rebuild this vital rail link.”

    Mark Carne, chief executive, Network Rail 

    Final restoration work, September 2014

    Our ‘orange army’ reaches an important milestone by starting improvement work on the final section of walkway between Rockstone and Coast Guard footbridges. Once complete, this improvement work means that every section of the walkway from Dawlish Warren to Teignmouth is open.

    The work includes building a new wall in front of the existing sea wall to provide further protection against any future extreme weather, and reconstructing the walkway so that its height is level with the sections on either side. This means that it can be used in all tidal conditions, whereas historically this section was not accessible during high tides.

    Temporary barge

    To undertake this extensive work and ensure the railway can continue to operate as normal, a temporary barge is set up on the beach next to the railway line, to act as a base from which the ‘orange army’ can work. In October 2014, a second barge will be installed so that the work is completed as quickly as possible.

  • Photos from the site

    6 February - aerial view showing the breached sea defences and collapsed train line

    27 February - aerial view. Photo by Network Rail Air Operations Team

    September 2014 - temporary barge on the beach at Dawlish next to the railway line acting as a base from which our 'orange army' can work

    25 March - main earthslip site between Sprey Point and Smugglers Cove revealing solid rock behind the loose soil

    25 March - view showing the tops of the rubble filled containers and the new concrete pre-cast 'L' sections of the parapet wall


    25 March - securing steel reinforcement rods for concrete repairs to parapet wall near Sea Lawn Terrace

    24 March - progress removing the sheared cliff face near Teignmouth with around 25% loose soil still to remove

    20 March -high powered pumps are being used to create a controlled landslip after 20,000 tonnes of cliff face sheared away near Teignmouth

    20 March - aerial view of the controlled landslip operation near Teignmouth

    18 March - tamping the line near Coastguards footbridge


    18 March - Dawlish station

    18 March - completed parapet wall near Rockstone footbridge

    13 March - new precast concrete L-sections at main breach site

    13 March - repairs to inner and outer wall at main breach site

    13 March - moving inner L-sections into position


    13 March - moving inner L-sections into position

    13 March - main site looking east

    13 March - precast concrete L-sections viewed from sea-facing side

    13 March - London end of main breach site

    13 March - Dawlish station platform repairs


    13 March - refurbishing Dawlish station canopy

    11 March - progress installing the pre-cast concrete 'L' sections

    5 March - installing the first pre-cast concrete section

    5 March - shuttering for the parapet wall

    5 March - steel reinforcing being installed


    5 March - start of steel reinforcing

    5 March - preparing the parapet wall for reinforcing

    5 March - looking down on the new track bed (construction in progress)

    5 March - view of the main site

    5 March - installing the trough the signal cables sit in


    5 March - new signal cable getting ready to lay in the trough

    5 March - glass fibre moulds to create the public side of the parapet wall (the side next to the track is plain concrete)

    28 February: Secretary of State for Transport together with Mark Carne, Network Rail CEO and Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail route managing director see the force of the sea

    27 February: drilling to install vertical steel reinforcing rods

    27 February: view along the coast from Sprey Point towards Smugglers Cove and Parsons Tunnel


    27 February: damage to ramp at Sprey Point yet to be restored

    27 February: steel reinforcing rods being installed for the next layer of concrete at the back of the main breach site

    26 February: concrete being poured which will ultimately support the roadway area

    26 February: view towards Dawlish station showing the equipment supporting the pipe carrying concrete from the road to site

    26 February: new platform coping stones being laid at the station


    26 February: damaged station platform

    25 February - pouring concrete to walkways

    24 February - reinforcing the concrete foundations

    21 February - main breach site. The tops of the vertical drains are visible and are extended as each concrete layer is added. The horizontal steels will tie the pre-cast concrete blocks to the poured concrete.

    21 February - repairs to walkway near site of second breach, between Rockstone footbridge and Dawlish Warren


    19 February - view from Dawlish station looking towards Kennaway Tunnel where concrete is being poured to repair the damaged walkway and sea wall.

    19 February - damage to the walkway between the main breach and Rockstone footbridge. Large debris has been moved. The second breach is seen in the distance.

    19 February - ongoing repairs

    19 February - just beyond the second breach showing preparations for a new surface to the walkway. View looks towards Dawlish Warren with the main site behind the camera.

    19 February - work progresses on restoration at the station


    19 February - more concrete being poured close to the digger via the red pipe

    17 February - concrete foundations being laid

    17 February - preparing the site ready for pouring concrete. Heavy rain has made the ground very muddy.

    Additional damage to the temporary breakwater after 14 February storm

    Additional damage after 14 February storm


    Damage before 14 February storm

    Damage before 14 February storm

    13 February - storm in full swing

    12 February - work progresses on building a cable bridge

    11/12 February - overnight work to build a scaffold walkway


    10 February - view of the breakwater made from rubble filled shipping containers

    Containers filled with rubble (before the 14 February storm)

    9 February - work continues to protect the subsoil

    9 February - shoring up the bank with concrete

    8 February - the scrapped rails and the first spray of concrete to shore up the bank


    6 February: Workers removing damaged track

    6 February - track engineers survey the damage

    6 February - damaged sea defences and collapsed track

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