There will be limited access to the beach and promenade in Dawlish this summer when the Town Gateway/Colonnade underpass is closed while Network Rail continues with construction works on a new, bigger sea wall.
The closure is to allow Network Rail to begin a key stage in constructing the second section of a new, bigger sea wall, which will protect the coastal railway and town from storms and rising sea levels.
From Monday 13 June for up to 12 weeks, the underpass will be closed for safety reasons while engineers install the foundations for a new bridge that will connect the two sections of the new accessible public promenade and for the box culvert through which Dawlish Water will flow into the sea.
Due to the poor ground conditions in the area, engineers will use large and heavy machinery to install 20-metre-long foundations. Safety is Network Rail’s number one priority, and because of the size and location of the machinery, the underpass needs to be closed during construction.
Whilst the underpass is closed, the beach and Kings Walk promenade opposite Marine Parade will remain open, with access via the footbridge at Kennaway Tunnel. After crossing the footbridge, the beach can be accessed from Boat Cove slipway and Coryton Cove via its usual ramped or stepped access.
This is the final critical aspect of work to protect the railway and historic station from the sea. The work can’t be delayed until after the summer months because of the extreme weather that affects that section of the coast. Postponing the work would also prevent the second section of the sea wall reopening to the public in September as planned.
Once the second section of the sea wall is complete, it will link up with the first section so that residents and visitors alike can walk along a wider and safer promenade from Boat Cove, south of Dawlish station, nearly one kilometre to the Coastguard breakwater to the north, before continuing uninterrupted along the original sea wall to Dawlish Warren. There will also be step-free access to the beaches and station.
The design for a new fully accessible station footbridge with lifts has also been approved. Construction will start later this year and the footbridge is expected to open in 2023.
Julie Gregory, Network Rail Senior Sponsor, said:
“I would like to apologise for any disruption the closure of the Town Gateway/Colonnade underpass may cause and sincerely thank residents, businesses and visitors for their patience and understanding while we complete this critical, final stage of construction.
“I appreciate this closure will be disappointing for the community, especially for people with accessibility needs or those with pushchairs and particularly during the busier summer months.
“However, we will never compromise on the safety of the public or our colleagues, and to ensure we remain on course to complete the second section of sea wall and open the entire promenade and both beaches in September, it is imperative this work is completed now.”