The stretch of the railway which connects Devon and Cornwall with the rest of England is now better protected from extreme weather as Network Rail has completed the construction of the first section of the new Dawlish sea wall.
It means that the beach and promenade are now open, with Network Rail adding the finishing touches to the footpath before returning later in 2020 to add fencing, lighting and seating following delays due to Coronavirus.
The new sea wall is bigger and runs for 360 metres along Marine Parade, giving the railway an immediate resilience against sea waves.
The footbridge that connects Marine Parade to Boat Cave is open, but delays mean that engineers will continue working 24/7 for another three weeks to install granite paving at Boat Cave.
Network Rail has submitted plans for the second section of the wall, which will be a 415 metre stretch between Coastguards and Colonnade breakwaters.
Mike Gallop, Network Rail Western route director, said: “We’d like to thank the residents of Dawlish and visitors to the town for their patience during the main construction work.
“There is more to do before this section of the project is completely finished. We faced delays in our supply chain due to Coronavirus and therefore will need to return to complete the paving, fencing, lighting and seating – but we are pleased that we’ve been able to reopen the beach, promenade and footbridge for summer visitors.
“The new sea wall is already doing its job by returning waves to the sea and reducing the amount of water and spray reaching the tracks. It will help to protect the town and the railway for the next 100 years.
“We’ll continue to keep the community informed of our progress and our proposals for the remaining section of the new wall.”
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “It is fantastic to see this vital project making so much progress despite the challenges it has faced due to Covid-19, and this is testament to the hard work and dedication of all the teams involved.
“We are committed to improving the resilience of this route, which is crucial for connecting communities across the south west and boosting economic growth in the region. I look forward to seeing this important work completed later this year.”
Chair of Peninsula Rail Task Force, Cllr Andrea Davis said: “The PRTF welcomes the fantastic progress that has been made along the Marine Parade, as well as the new sea wall, at Dawlish.”
The project has faced substantial challenges in recent months, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is a credit to Network Rail and all those involved that the project has been able to progress to this stage. Ensuring that this crucial link between the South West and the wider UK remains open, is vital to the economic success of the region.
“There is still a lot more work to be done to secure the future resilience of our rail network and the PRTF will continue its work with the Government to build upon their efforts to level up the region, delivering a rail infrastructure fit for the future.“
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